Author Min Jin Lee speaks with students as part of the Visiting Distinguished Writer series

Author Min Jin Lee speaks with students as part of the Visiting Distinguished Writer series

By Nia Beckett, news staff

The Northeastern University (NU) English Department hosted an opening night reading and discussion with Korean-American author Min Jin Lee as part of their Visiting Distinguished Writer series on Nov. 7.

English professors, students and fans gathered in 310 Renaissance Park to hear Lee, writer of the 2017 novel “Pachinko,” speak. The event had an overflowing turnout. An article in the Boston Globe drew many attendees to the event, which was open to the public.

Chair of the NU English Department and Professor of English Elizabeth Maddock Dillon introduced Sebastian Stockman, an associate teaching professor and new director of the writing minor. Stockman spoke reverently of “Pachinko” through his expansive summary of the book before inviting Lee to the podium.

Lee opened with her own reasons for speaking at Northeastern: her best friend, Donna, a Northeastern alum.

“I will always think Northeastern is superior in every way because Donna went here,” she said.

She then gave a brief history of her family’s beginning in America as working class immigrants, following with thoughts about literature and peace. Lee insisted that by reading literature, readers are transformed into the main characters of the stories they read. Subsequently, she felt that through literary techniques and catharsis, she is ”trying to make you Korean.”

Fourth-year international affairs major Michal Manzon, who has read her 2007 novel “Free Food for Millionaires,” liked the atmosphere that Lee created.

“She was so much more down to earth than I expected,” Manzon said. “She was sorta self-deprecating in a refreshing way, but still knew when to be serious.”

After Lee read a short excerpt from “Pachinko”, Stockman asked her a few questions, followed by audience questions on topics such as “Pachinko”, the research process and identity.

Lee discussed the reality of being told by other Koreans that she is not good at speaking the language.

“The best thing about being a woman of color at age 50 is that I just don’t give a [expletive],” Lee said.

More general topics arose as well, including the extent of her novels’ popularity in curriculum. “Free Food for Millionaires” is taught at Columbia University as well as in high schools throughout the United States.

“It’s really gratifying that I have high school students reading [Free Food for Millionaires] in AP history,” Lee said.

Nadia Lewis, a second-year political science graduate student, found both “Pachinko” and Lee relatable.

“A lot of the stuff she said about citizenship and immigration and which ethnicity you identify with really resonated with me,” Lewis said. “I think this book does a great job of trying to tackle those themes.”

The discussion was followed by a taco bar dinner and reception, during which several fans got their copies of “Pachinko” signed by the author.

The English department decides which esteemed writer to bring each year in a variety of ways. Stockman suggested Lee for this year’s Visiting Distinguished Writer after reading “Pachinko” himself.

“I had just read “Pachinkoand it seemed like an exciting choice,” he said.

The opening event was followed by a lunch and book discussion hosted by Lee for English students and a master class for selected student writers on Nov. 8.

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