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Novelist Chang-rae Lee

Chang-rae Lee was the first Korean-American novelist brought out by a major American publisher. He’s made publishers and readers happy ever since with his critically-acclaimed “Native Speaker,” “A Gesture Life,” and “Aloft.”

Now, Chang-rae Lee is taking on the wages of war, the Korean War, and how they echo through lives — Korean lives, American lives — nearly forever.

When we go to war, we go to a brutal place. And we bring it home, wherever that home may be.

This hour, On Point: Chang-rae Lee and his new novel of war, “The Surrendered.”


Chang-rae Lee, author of the novels “Native Speaker,” “A Gesture Life,” and “Aloft.” He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. His new novel is “The Surrendered.”

Read an excerpt from “The Surrendered.”

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  • http://www.artofstorytellingonline.com Caroline Allen


    I’m a former journalist and fiction writer and am deeply interested in the way telling of stories, especially about trauma like war, can help save a life.

    Does Chang Rae Lee have any comments on the need to speak our truths, to not bury them, and how that might be healing for all concerned.

    Thank you

  • Christine in Newton

    I am the daughter of a Navy veteran who served during the Korean war. I grew up knowing how disappointed my ultra-Patriotic father was in the fact that the Korean war is talked about so little in the US.

    I went to South Korea three years ago and was blown away at the Korean War memorial to American soldiers. It was so much bigger and more impressive and respectful to the American soldiers than anything America has ever publicly done for Korean war vets. It was touching.

  • manoog in Providence

    I immediately wrote this poem while reading a similar transcript with regards to wars horror and truth buried for generations in light of 1915 Genocide of the Armenians for which last week the House Foreign Relations Sub Committee, by a 23 to 22 vote approved Resolution 252 to recognize the truth of this genocide.

    The soul
    occupied for a century
    by a split second of horror
    ‘truth be told’
    Young eyes cleared of desert sand
    behold & harvest ancestral beauty by a light relit,
    restores the chasm with

  • Mari

    I am American. I grew up in the shadows of war. War was the food we all ate, the air we breathed, the water we were bathed in as babies. I hate war.

    My father & brothers, unfortunately, as well as the man who was to become the father of my son, were madly in love with war. As hard as I have tried to promote another vision of life, my voice has always been drowned out by American men who love their wars more than anything else. I’ve never been able to squeeze a peaceful word in edgewise. War is personal, war is home life, war is the bad boy pulling the wings off of flies at the dinner table because he likes to. Nobody says, “don’t do that.” If they did, he would keep on doing it anyway. War has scarred me, robbed me and taken my family away. I hate war.

    Thanks to Chang rae-Lee for writing about this and to Tom for hosting this program.

  • Brett

    In the early part of the Korean War, my father was shot in the ankle. The bones in his ankle were shattered; they fused his ankle with plastic materials, leaving him with a deformity, a limp and no range of motion in his ankle (luckily, he didn’t have to have his leg amputated). Several months later, his brother was killed in the War…My father never really talked about the War, never had any real sense of its purpose that would justify his disability or his brother’s death.

  • Diane Skwisz

    I listened with interest to author Chang rae Lee’s interview and readings. My sister has a son who is adopted from Korea and we try to inform ourselves of his culture.

    However, I could not stop thinking of a photo of a “korean war orphan” in Life Magazine. When I saw that photo, my heart felt heavy–those big eye in such a small face and body, sitting in front of his army issued tin bowl and cup. To this moment, I want to reach out and hold him in my arms.

    I can’t wait to read the book.

  • Michael

    I heard some of the interview last night and it reminded me of the many books and accounts flowing out…it was a short, brutal war, with new books coming out and some veterans wondering when they will get their “Band of Brothers” (US troops in Europe in WWII) and the upcoming “The Pacific” (US Marines in the Pacific war, WWII) on HBO with a $200 million plus cost. The late James Brady was a young platoon leader in the Korean ‘police action’ (as Pres.Truman put it) and his book, The Coldest War, was his story and he wrote fiction about the war also. Korean history is another nightmare, such as the Japanese occupation of the entire peninsula, which was a colony from 1910 to 1945. Nat’l Geographic had a cover story with a great map–we still have many troops south of the DMZ near Seoul. Another war could break out any moment.

  • Samantha

    There was no need for the interviewer to go out of his way to give out so much detail on this. I’d have liked to have heard more of the interview but had to axe the radio due to the way the interview was done. Please interview and review, don’t go out of your way to tell all that is unique in the story.

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