Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

Friends & Fiction with Nancy Jooyoun Kim

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The Fab Five welcome bestselling author Nancy Jooyoun Kim whose September 2020 debut novel, THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE, met with rave reviews across the board and was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller and a Reese's Book Club Pick. Nacny talks about how her relationship with her own mother, family secrets, and experience as the daughter of a Korean immigrant growing up in LA informed her writing, and they discuss the strong sense of place and all the glorious food in the novel. http://www.nancyjooyounkim.com

Welcome to Friends and fiction. Five best selling authors and the stories Novelists Mary Kay Andrews, Christine Harmel, Christie Woodson, Harvey, Patty Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Munro are five longtime friends with more than 80 published books to their credit. In 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviews and fascinating insider talk about publishing and writing and to highlight independent bookstores. These friends discuss the books they've written, the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Yeah, welcome, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us tonight on friends and fiction reverie. Celebrate book authors and independent bookstores. Tonight We welcome Nancy Julian Kim, who's now the last story of Mina Lee, was an instant New York Times bestseller and a Reese Witherspoon pick. Yes, it was. I'm your host, Mary Alice Munro and I'm Mary Kay Andrews. I'm Christine Harmel. I'm Christie Woodson Harvey, and I am Patty Callahan. Henry, I have to tell you everyone I was so captivated with tonight's really powerful, insightful novel. It's a story of a mother and daughter separated by language and cultural divides. And yet the love was there there, so bound by love. So we have a lot of questions for them. But before we start a discussion, we wanna think about another mama, our partner, Mama Geraldine's. You know, I always have Mama G's on hand when my grandchildren come to visit, and I can always tell them in there because a little bags are sprinkled off and they're always empty. Now you can use the code Fab Five all caps to get 20% off at Mama Geraldine's dot com. Snack on y'all. That's that. Okay, France and Fiction Tribe. It is time again to mobilize the troops for our other partner, Page one books. They have been nominated for best book subscription, Bock Box by USA Today and 10 Best. We have moved them up because that's the power of our tribe. They're up, but they are not Page three. They are page one, and it's a small female owned business. They are number one to us, so let's get our votes in and come together to get them to number one by voting every day, which I have done until March 29th. So thank you page one for partnering with us and remember, you can get 10% off with the code Fab Five and that code Fab Five works for both Mama Jeez and Page one. So very easy to remember. Fab Five and now to our guest, Nancy Julian Kim is the New York Times best selling author of The Last Story of Mina Lee, described as part literary crime novel. It is also part romance and part friendship. The last story of finally opens with a somewhat of a nightmare scenario when a young woman is trying to call her mother and she doesn't answer the phone. And you know that uh oh, feeling you always get when that happens. So read on This is Nancy's triumphant debut novel, and I think all of us agreed. It's so wonderful and so sophisticated. It's hard to believe it's a debut, but she is a prolific writer. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books Guernica, NPR PR I Selected Shorts Salon, which has an incredible essay about her mother in their Asian Asian American writers, workshops, the margins and elsewhere. Nancy was born in Los Angeles, where the novel takes place, but now she lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and a new baby girl. So let's bring on Nancy. Welcome. Hello. So much for having me such an honor. Thanks. So do I hear Nancy? You write beautiful essays. And recently the five of Us began a partnership with Parade magazine for weekly essays. And this past week Christine Harmel wrote such beautiful and moving and timely piece titled A Surprising Lesson from the Past about our shared humanity. And in it she writes about historical examples. During World War Two of how people opened one's Heart, there's just strangers reaching out to help a fellow man. And right now we are world that is...

...just beginning to feel, don't you think? A little hope now as we begin getting out of the pandemic and we can begin next with families and friends. I mean, we're all dying to see our family, and we're all a lot of us are getting R vaccinations now, so hope springs eternal. So the question I'm going to ask based on Christians, beautiful essay is Nancy. You can answer fast, and these are quick, quick, brief answers. Can you recall a time in your lives when you opened your heart or door to help someone. Nancy, let's start with you. Oh, wow. That's such a great question. And I'm looking forward to reading that essay. Kristen, Um, yeah, that's that's really wonderful. I I feel like just thinking about examples of opening a door to someone you know, when when I was growing up, I worked in just like in a novel. Um, my mother worked in swap meets and, um um, outside of Los Angeles. And there was this great sense of commonality that we had, um, working in that environment, sort of a working class, immigrant community, environment, and I can't really think of specific instances of reaching out, But we had this wonderful opportunity to share with, You know, each of the different families have different stores within the swamping environment, and we were always sort of sharing food and commuting over food. And I just remember that that was such a mutual, uh, sort of respect and appreciation that we had for each other that, um, was a way of helping each other out. But with so much a part of our everyday lives, that I wouldn't necessarily say that they it stood out. Or certain instances. Instances stood out. Um, yeah. So that's through food and just sort of the ways that you can sort of learn about each other and what's important to each other through food. Hello. So true. Mhm. Mary Kay. Do you have a answer? Well, my actually, my daughter got me onto this kick. Um, these, uh they're they're not charities. They're called, uh, commune community things, but they're all over the country, and they're free bridges, and you can put food in, you can put it in, anybody can put food in, and anybody can take food out. So my daughter Katie has is a die hard doing that we have pitched in to help with that. So you can put in, um, staple goods. You can put in prepared foods, and you label it so they know it's not some you know, if you're not giving them rotting food from your fridge, this is really you prepared and bag lunches. And, um, you know, period packs women's hygiene products with, if you, you know, if you are living close to the bone, um, you don't have money to buy women's hygiene products. So this is something that, uh, it's kind of a project the whole family is taken on. I love it. That's that's amazing. Yeah, you know, this week as a group, all of us, it was just a small little thing we did. But we learned friends. Infection. We learned about a bookseller who who's paying her luck forward. And she she had a struggle during the pandemic. But she's been helping give free books to kids who need them. And so we made a small donation to her to help her to buy more books for kids who need them. Um, and she wrote back and said that she was going to purchase those books and the friends of the library sales so that donation to her will help support a library to So I love that idea of paying. Yeah, I love it so that paying it forward can pay someone forward. I love that idea of just a good deed, continuing to reverberate a little bit. Well, for me, I mean, this is something that I sort of still can't get over. But in the town where I used to live There was a man at church and he was from a village in Africa called Aloha. And, um, it was a very poor village. They did not have water. And someone in our church decided we were going to do it like we were going to get water to flow off, which is this massive undertaking. And I won't even go into the all of the details. But it was one of those things that seemed absolutely impossible and insurmountable and over the course of a couple of years actually happened. And it was one of the coolest things that I've ever been involved with. Just to see all of the people that came together, Um, here and then, you know, all the way across the world to be able to really create this economically stable place for these amazing people to live. So it was really cool. It is. And I think that's what Oh, Patty, you go ahead first jumping and jumping. I You know, when I was growing up, Nancy, you you made me think about it. When I was growing up, my dad was a pastor, and we used to always have people come live with us. You were in trouble all the time. They...

...were actually called live ins. And as a kid, you're thinking seriously, like there's this stranger in the attic. But it was, that's how I grew up. There was always somebody that experiments were helping. That was that We're living in our house, and it's this outreach that then I've watched them grow up and do the same thing for other people. I love that. Like you said, it keeps going literally opened the door. Yeah, exactly. Literally concept. And I love this concept, and I think it's really going to be for everyone who reads the essay. You'll see the basa is that concept that Kristin wrote about. And I think the key for that was strangers, to which Patty yours really touched on and Mary Kay from, you know, during the Last Pandemic. My sisters all lived with me during leaving big cities, but that wasn't really strangers. I have to say, though, when Years ago and this was in the late eighties, it was when the if, you remember when the President Carter had a lot of the refugees coming in from Southeast Asia from Vietnam and Cambodia, and Laos and a month. These were people who live running for their lives. And they came to Milwaukee where I was teaching the survival English, and it was more social work than teaching or equal amounts, I should say. But the community really came together to pull together food and places where they could live. And I think it was one of the most beautiful experiences I ever had was to see how our community came together because everyone knew that these people were left behind after the after the Vietnam War and they were running for their lives. It was powerful, and it made me think of that. World War two experience in Kristen's essay Well, well, now, Nancy, let's talk about your wonderful book, Last story of nominally All right now it's your chance to give everyone of our readers a brief synopsis of the story. Oh, thank you so much. The Lester of Mentally it takes place in Los Angeles's Koreatown. Um, it's about a American born daughter of a Korean immigrant named Mina. The story begins with the death. It begins with Margo, Um, as you mentioned in the intro, um, finding her mother's body in their Koreatown apartment, which is where she grew, grew up, and it sort of alternates between the present and the past. It's both an investigation of a death, but also an investigation of a life and in the process of trying to figure out Margo's the main character trying to figure out what happened to her mother on the night of her death. She's also learning more about who her mother was when she was alive, which is very important and also who she is as well. And so it's kind of mix of It's, you know, I I wrote it this literary, but it's a mix of, you know, it takes elements of genre of mystery in it and some say historical fiction a little bit of that, too. And it's so yes, yes, I see that. Well, thank you for that. It's We're going to have fun now, diving into our questions. We all have lots. I have to say, I love this book and I felt this would be a great book for book club discussion, because there is. First of all, it's very timely today, but also they're still with so many personal issues. Mother daughter issues that are always good for book club Christie. Why don't you start us off? Well, I also loved this story, and it's such a coming of age for Margo, and we really get to see how, you know, as a child, she viewed her mother as a failure with her inability to speak English and their poverty and her endless working and demands on Margo to help her. And she was She was embarrassed of her mother. Um And then her death triggers that change to adulthood. And as she is, you know, sort of making that change and becoming more of a woman. She learned so much compassion for her mother and by the end, really even views her as heroic. So can you talk about your use of the dual storylines alternating between Mina and Margot between the past and present and how the reader almost here's a dialogue that they never got to have. That's beautiful. Yeah, I absolutely love that. Um, I definitely I intended this sort of the structure of the novel to well, both Margo and Nina's points of views. One is in the 19 eighties. Minhas and Margo's is in the current, which is 2014 of the novel, Um, I intended them for them both to sort of begin at major turning points in their lives. For For Margo, it is discovering her mother's body. And for Mina, it is coming to America after she has experienced sort of horrific tragedies in her past, and she has sort of psychologically pushed to to escape from South Korea. And so I in many ways saw this as a kind of what I call the impossible conversation between the two, the past and the present, talking, speaking with each other and mother and...

...daughter speaking with each other in a way that couldn't happen in real life. And that's obviously one of the tragedies of the book. You know, you wish Nina was alive to see Margo realized, But I also think it's actually more realistic in a way for in my point of view that sometimes that you know when a person passes, that's when you get to know them on a different level, because there's this kind of surrender to the facts and the surrender to what they leave behind, you know, and there are no more walls that that person can put up, you know, So they're kind of ultimately laid bare and a really interesting. And so I love that you brought up this idea of the past and the present and dialogue with each other because I definitely as a book that in a lot of ways is exploring and meditating on issues of language, the silences and our families. What we can talk about, what we don't make space to talk about. The structure of the novel was really a kind of conversation that I think. And this is why I think fiction is so powerful is that it allows for a conversation that could not happen in real life for these characters. And so we have the ability to kind of do these things and with fiction that I think, um, you know, sort of unlocks the, you know, a conversation that, um uh in my opinion, you know, like, I've had readers asked me, they're like, you know, I or say things like, you know, Mina, I you know, I love mean as a character, but I don't understand why Mina never said this to her daughter, you know? But, you know, there are so many reasons why we keep things to ourselves, whether it's to protect other people to be less vulnerable. And so in many ways, this conversation is a conversation that leads toward forgiveness, hopefully forgiveness of Margo's forgiveness of her mother, forgiveness of herself and maybe even the forgiveness that we can have for other people. You know, ourselves in our lives that we might, um, you know, have misunderstandings about or have never been able to sort of attain some sort of closure with. That's so true. And you know, that's something that we've talked about on the show before is that sometimes the most interesting parts of our characters are the things that they don't say. And there's so much of that in the story and as a reader, that's one of my favorite parts. So I think that really drew me into this story about you know, these secrets that both of these women are keeping. I It also struck me to how cruel and we've all had the older, the older ones that I said older daughters, how cruel young daughters can be, you know, biting. It's just so childlike, but that that's what they're responding to. And I thought you brought that up And the guilt she felt afterwards. And it makes me think about how Let's have those conversations now. Not only with my mother points, but with my daughter. Because I'm about to see her. I'm going to ask her. What do you wish you could say to me? What do you do? You? How do you look? What you've done that you know. What do you wish you could say? Say it now. Yeah, I love them. So also in the book, you really redefine the American dream. You reveal the darker side of the working class, especially for immigrants in ways that are really timely and what we're talking about now. So in the novel, the measure of success is different than than even newcomers or what we define now. So what is the measure of success, especially between the two of them? Come on, You know, that's such a That's a great point. Um, when I was writing this book, I the words American nightmare occurred to being more often because, as you know, this book begins with a kind of nightmare scenario, a nightmare that many of us have which is what happens when this person I Yeah, it's like one of the greatest terrorism life right? And in many and and so this book is in a lot of ways exploring, Um, how the American dream isn't actually the way we think of American Dream isn't a reality for a lot of people in this country. Unfortunately, like without the systems and the structures in place to support certain people. In Minhas case, she is marginalized by her immigration status by the fact that she's working class, that she doesn't speak English, that she's a woman of color, that she's an immigrant. There's so many layers to the fact that she will. Even if she had lived past this book, she would always be living probably week to week, month to month in her daughter's eyes. She would never be considered a successful person. Um, but I think what happens in this book is Margo evolves to see how her mother was. In actuality, a person who was very successful put on different terms. She loved. She was courageous. She put herself out there. She she had friendships that were meaningful. That's the test of time. She found beauty in everyday life. She found joy. She found love. And I think that, you know, a lot of this book is about looking at the ways that we can define success by the connections that we have...

...with other people and the intimacies that we achieve in life. Because for me, Mina is a Although her story is tragic, her life is so full and rich and experienced in such an interesting way that I would consider her to be a hero and someone who achieved so much with with what she has. And so hopefully I'm I'm trying to sort of create a conversation around You know, how we define success and whether or not we can make it more inclusive and broader and bigger to include more people. Because we can talk about that with our work, right? How do we define success? What does it mean? Is it is it this is it what your family thinks? The success? Is it what your daughter thinks? His success. So I love that it's woven in between the lines you showed so clearly. I mean, they that woman no one worked harder than this woman. She never took a day off. She had her child worked with her, and yet she was never going to be. She never. She knew she would never have a more financial success, right? And I think that's a reality that is not part of the American dream of work hard and you're going to get rich. It's work hard and you're going to survive. I thought you could trade that well. And, you know, speaking of that, you know this novel is many things, but among them is a tribute to single working women doing their very best against the odds. So Mina, the mother earns a living at first as an undocumented immigrant by stocking shelves in a Korean grocery store. Right? So your portrayal of what it's like to be a woman, especially one without a real safety net working and barely scraping by barely holding it together, is so powerful. And you had this great quote that I wanted to read for people out there who are watching and the whole world told women every day. If you are alone, you are No. One. A woman alone is no one at all. Wow, Can you talk a little bit about that quote in particular, and that attitude in general, especially as it plays out in your character's lives. Thank you so much for this question. I mean, I think this is so important for us to talk about, you know, just to acknowledge that this is a working class single woman. That's the story of a heroin that is a working class and the single woman you know, they're at least as how Margo knows you're in the book. Um, that quote came from, I think, myself having grown up in a family where I had a single mother and sort of watching the ways in which, um, I never saw her experience sort of represented in ways that were complicated or interesting in the world, you know? And I feel like there are so many parents, single mothers, single parents working class who struggle on so many levels just not having the family structure, but also not having the social structure that supports them. And so for me, it was important to show how a woman like Mina not only endures, but she creates change in her life. You know, she not only lives, but she leads an interesting life. And so an interesting and complicated life emotionally and sort of psychologically and so, Yeah, it was important for me to see women like my own mother, who you know, and I This book is not autobiographical, but some of the dynamics between the mother and daughter very true and real to my own life. And because society often doesn't portray women, uh, single women, single working women, single mothers, um, as heroes or people that we can even like, admire or inspired, you know, to sort of have some some of the traits through the values of, um, it was really important for me to just sort of highlight that and to sort of celebrate, you know, the fact that you know, women are deserving of our own stories, and we're capable of being the main characters of our own stories. Sometimes men come into play, and that's great. And sometimes they don't. And that's also it's also great what I mean Yeah, like it's that that's not what the story revolves around, and I just feel like because we need all kinds of stories. I mean, for me, it's about creating a spectrum of stories in this world. You know, um, we have all sorts of readers in the world. We have readers who are looking for all sorts of things, whether it's escape or education or what you know. But we need the full spectrum to sort of represent our humanity. Thank you so much for for picking that quote. No, I mean, it's a beautiful one. And, you know, it's also just this idea. I love the idea that we don't all of us. We don't get credit for these things, you know that. We're doing that we're working day in and day out and pouring our hearts into. And I just thought you brought that to the forefront so beautifully. But I love that there was an inspiration of your own, your own family dynamic, and they're a little bit too. I think that makes it all the more meaningful. Yeah, I think it's interesting that right now...

...a lot of people, a lot of women, are writing articles about how during the pandemic, even though they're all home, they're still doing all the housework. They're still there. The teachers with the Children, the women, the single mothers in particular, but even married women are and during a lot in this last pandemics, the power that they have in the family and how everyone depends on them. There are so much unacknowledged and unpaid or underpaid labor that I think women take on because it's expected of us because of our strength. You know, I mean, a strength or cardio strength. But, I mean, it's really important to acknowledge that it is labour ultimately in the end. And this is why people are burning out. And this is why you know, this is why Margot was in many ways resentful of her mother because of how hard her mother did work. So she was only really able to see her mother as a laborer. But her mother didn't really have a choice, you know, I mean, I think we see that there really isn't much many options for Mina in this world. And so, um, for Margo to see her mother as someone other than just like this, the stereotype of maybe a hard working immigrant in her mind of failure. But as a woman who had, you know, love, interest as a woman who had a sense of adventure and courage. You know courageously, I think is really important. You know, the sense of place is so powerful in this novel Los Angeles Koreatown, with its landscape and complicated history and from Mina, who arrived in L. A. Not speaking the language without a job and only one personal connection. The Koreatown community was just her key to everything. Her survival and there was poverty. But there were churches and groceries and places of support, like the swap meet and the swap meet store owners. You know, their community that they formed and the food everybody. I'm looking at the comments. Everybody is talking. Everybody's talking about the food. Margo. Her down as an adult was, I think, part of her awakening to an appreciation for her culture. And, you know, I think it's interesting. I get The New York Times, um, food things every week, and I think almost every week there's at least one Korean recipe, and I think it's fascinating. Um, and we'll all kinds of multicultural recipes and more discussion about a whole world of food, and this is a long way of getting to this question. I'm sorry you're talking about I'm getting hungry, hungry, hungry or As you hope, readers take away from reading about this community that they might not have been previously aware of. I mean, I loved the scenes in the church, uh, in her church. I love that. Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, I you know, I think Korea Town and many I think enclaves across this country are often portrayed as are typically portrayed as, um, stereotypically portrayed as places where crime happens, you know, places where CD activities going on. And I wanted to portray a Koreatown that is the Koreatown that I know. And I went to elementary school, and I grew up within, which is a place that provides some of those safety nets that don't exist within the larger society. For people who are new to this country, and food is not just food is yes, it's pleasurable. But it's such a way of it's such an integral way of surviving and also sort of communicating history and strength. And there's so many lessons to be learned within the food that's brought here, um, from other countries. And I feel like for in this novel for Margo, food is you know, she she you know, we sort of like learn about how, you know, earlier in her life she wanted to eat American food and she thought of Korean food is very boring. And so as the novel progresses and she is sort of spending more time in Koreatown and sort of revisiting meals that she had with her mother, she is sort of realizing that her mother, in a lot of ways, made enormous sacrifices to feed her and was sort of teaching her lessons in the foods that she may created and sort of supported her with ways to survive and sort of, you know, without a lot of money and to sort of communicate, you know, where she comes from. Her history through food and so food and Koreatown and ethnic enclaves are extraordinarily important and vital places that provide some of sometimes the only services where a person who has just arrived from this country can go to the post office, can go to the bank, can, you know, go grocery shopping. And so these...

...these spaces are just, you know, this is this is a way of kind of countering. A lot of I think the very harmful myths about places like Korea Town or China Town, which, you know, I think, historically have sort of been, especially when you think about in the genre of, like, mystery as sort of as a crime like drug, you know? You know exactly. And so counters that idea advice, going to the more everyday necessities that are fulfilled by these places. And obviously and, you know, we're, you know, in large cities we are dealing with issues of gentrification and, like people being, you know, unable to afford within to live within these areas anymore and so that the normal kind of touches upon that as well, but just show how vital and important these places are, You know, in terms of, you know that you know, we can think more about how can we protect these spaces for people what goes on in them? Um, yeah, but thank you so much for the question. I I love it. Yeah, I kind of love that we get speak into a community or world we don't know. I think that's one of the best things about novels. You know, we get to see Koreatown as opposed to just knowing about it, but can I go back to the family secrets. You mentioned it earlier. I I have a couple more questions. Um, you wrote. Sometimes agreeing to the lie is what makes a family family. Margo and I think it foreshadowed a lot. And it highlights that theme of family and secrets. So I really resonated it. My father, I'm first generation from my father. He's an immigrant from Germany, and at the time he came over, it was hard to be a German in America. I know that he doesn't talk much, but I've heard you know that he had experiences where he was beaten up and teased and made fun. And so, um, it made me think of a lot of that sense of other that this nation is still going through. And he never talked to us ever about his experiences in Germany or in America. When he was young, it was which, of course, makes us hungry to know what really happened. But it reminded me of meaning. It really touched me. She kept secrets from her daughter that were pretty big secrets, like the father who her father was even and I thought to myself, Wow, um, that is That's more than just being silent. And I had a question. Here's my question. Do you think because Mina lived an incredibly tragic life I mean, this woman went through trauma from four years old? Uh, and we know trauma affects how we respond to things the rest of our lives. So do you think this inability for Mina to share even with their friends these secrets was cultural because I don't know the Korean culture about silence and secrets in a family? Or do you think it could have been the traumatic experience she had, where she chose not to relive? Those experiences are bringing it up, right? That's a great question. I When I was creating these characters, to me, it was more about trauma, which I think is, um, not specific to any culture you know, like as you're bringing Mary your father's experiences and being unable to sort of speak about them. I think they have to do with more to do with trauma. And I don't feel like we in American culture. We live in a society that makes it feel completely safe to share vulnerabilities, and so because life is so work oriented and I sort of always envisioned Nina as this person who worked so hard she focused on work and to revisit things that would make her daily life. That would make her question her daily life that would make her reconsider. Things would be too painful personally. And so I always attributed it a little bit more to trauma, a desire to protect her daughter and a desire to protect herself from the past and also the sort of interesting relationship that trauma has to everyday life and the fact that she had to spend so much of her life just focusing on survival, paying the bills, eating, you know, getting through the next day, getting through the next day that I don't feel like she had many opportunities to really sit down with the sort of weight of everything that she had been through and perhaps didn't want to sort of burden her daughter with the weight of those things. You know, maybe by immigrating to this country, she felt that she could escape a lot of it, But obviously we see that she doesn't. She lives with Mitch. A lot of trauma from the war. She herself as an orphan of the war and, you know, has lots of flashbacks in terms of the things that she experienced, the violence that she experienced. And so, um, in many ways...

...there's a lot of repression that is going on. That I feel is, um pretty can be universal, as opposed to culturally specific. I agree, but it does beg the question. Um, do you think after having done this research and it is cultural universally, I agree that secrets are something that are not healthy for a family, that we should knock down those barriers a little bit to converse. What do you have an opinion on that? That's a great question. I have so many secrets and silences in my own family, and they continue to, you know, regardless of having written this book and having pursued trying to pursue answers, do I feel like they should be guarded? I I think that people have a right to guard the secrets that they need to keep in order to preserve their own sense of self or to protect themselves. So, um, like the secrets within my own family, I don't have any judgment upon, like my mother not talking enough about certain things because I understand that there's a lot of pain associated with it. But, um, I think that if we spoke a little bit more with each other, we realize we have more in common than we don't. And so there is a certain what is bad about keeping certain things silent is that there are sort of you create these silos around yourself. Margo has herself an asylum. Amina has yourself in a silo, and if they had spoken a little bit more, I think they would have realized that they have a lot more in common. That there are many things to Margo has a lot to admire about her mother, and if only they had spoken a little bit more in life. So I feel like Mina could have preserved certain questions. While also, I mean, certain secrets will also. Yeah, I kind of felt that I have to admit I kind of felt it, and I think I probably told that my daddy to he could have killed me a few more stories before he passed away. But you see what I mean everybody. Why This is such a good book for book clubs. There's a lot just allowed to talk fashion. Well, the last story immediately highlights the importance of community as we talked about and every week here on friends and fiction, we highlight an independent bookstore to encourage our listeners are followers to support independent bookstores who are bedroom in our communities and friends. And fiction is our literary community. Y'all out there? We really love it. So, Nancy, could you tell us, How did you choose the bookstore this week? Pegasus Books. Oh, Pegasus Books is in Berkeley and Oakland. It's one of those bookstores that I just love. You can spend so much time just sort of quietly browsing. People there are so helpful, super friendly. It's just a gem. I, you know, bookstores are places where we can. They're one of those. They're one of the few places in society where we can just kind of wander in, and there are very few expectations placed upon you. You're just kind of there. You can be collecting ideas you can be, You know what I mean? And so I find that to be and without any specific agenda from the bookstore itself, other than sharing stories and selling books, and I think that that's just wonderful. And how business books is a great example of that That is so well said. Oh, my goodness. Um, it sounds like Pegasus is a really amazing place. And I hope that we all get to go there really soon this week. Okay. This week they are offering 10% off of featured titles, including the last story of Mentally as well as new and recent releases by the five of us. So check them out. You don't even need a code. No code. That's easy. Well, Nancy, we had a chance to ask you some questions, and now it's our viewers turn. So Okay, why don't you start in the song? Well, yeah. We've got so many questions coming across Georgia. Perkins wants to know. Do you ever talk to your characters while you're writing a book? Oh, that's a great question. I've never had that question before. No, I mean, like me, Nancy. No, I actually don't. I don't think I do. Yeah, you never. You didn't ever ask me. No. Why did you do that? No characters in my book. That's a great question. That's funny. Yeah. No, no, you guys? Yeah, I dreamed them. Yes, Yes, I have heard in my head like, Yeah, I have a little bit of Uh huh. Yeah. I had a conversation with people who I wish I would have said something in a better way that we're perfect, but the whole world in that way. Yeah. It's usually a day later that takes so many hours of our lives, I'm sure ours, and it's like, ridiculous. But if we could rewrite...

...chapter two of our own life way, this is from one of our favorite members, Angela May. She said I finished reading the last story of Mentally. I am a first generation Korean American. And so much of your story resonated with me. The Ferris wheel shows up in three significant scenes in the book twice for the Mother Mina. And once for the daughter. Well, I have my own ideas in its meaning in the lives of the characters. Did you have symbolism from your perspective of the Ferris field? Yes. I mean, definitely the Thank you so much for that question. Um, yeah, I definitely saw it as I was working with sort of ideas of cycles within the book. There are seasonal cycles, but I'm also was thinking about just the cycle of life. Um and so the Ferris wheel to me is also just personally a very important, like symbol from being from Los Angeles as a place of escape as a place where you can sort of silently sort of be with yourself with by yourself or with a loved one. And it allows you to get this very interesting, different point of view on life. And a lot of the book itself is about points of view. And so yeah, yeah. So there's a high vantage point. Yes. Exactly. And so that sort of cyclical nature of I think the book and the way that it is about, you know, things coming back around again in the way the past and the future sort of inform each other is definitely embodied in the Ferris wheel. So thank you for pointing, You know, Thank you for asking that question, because I love that symbol. And actually, almost nobody points it out, which is interesting. Thank you. And, uh, well, so, Nancy, we have a few questions from our live feed, but first, I just wanted to point something out. You mentioned ahead of time that you have an infant. Who? We've seen beautiful pictures of on Instagram. And I was thinking as you were talking when I had you said four months old, right When I had a four month old, I could barely string together three words. And you sound like more intelligent and well spoken I than I do. But I have, like, 12 hours of sleep. I can only you just must be formidable at a full night of sleep. Thank you so much. I mean, it is. I mean, I will say Yeah, springing. I mean the sentences. I have had to record some things for book stuff and, like, I will leave out entire clauses in the sentence. I'm like, Good enough. You know what I mean? Yeah, it was transcribed. It would just be like dot, dot, dot Because, yes, but yeah, Good enough. I mean, thank you so much, though. That's really sweet of you tonight. Tonight you have been dot, dot, dot Plus You've done your So the first question from our live feed comes from Heidi Jean Angle, who asks what was the first nugget of inspiration for the story that motivated you to write the book. Oh, that's a great question. Um, it probably started off. Sorry, I have a dog. That's Oh, we love dogs. Yeah, your dog friendly dog. Yeah, it actually started with this. The image of actually my mother not picking up the phone. Because back in 2000 and four, I have news for the first time from Los Angeles, where I grew up to Seattle to go to graduate school. And this actually happened at the same time that my father, who I was estranged from, passed away in a car accident. And so my father died very suddenly, and so suddenly I was also moving from L. A to Seattle, and I became haunted with this idea of my mother not picking up the phone. And so in a lot of ways, this was an investigation of thinking about why that was so haunting to me. Part of it is, you know, obviously we don't want to lose people we love, but another part of it, I think, has to do with the sense of indebtedness that I've always felt towards my mother this sense that, like I had to protect her. I had to be there to take care of her. And like, How dare I like, leave and try to live my own life? And I'm sure we all have different versions of that with different people in our lives. And so it really began with this image of the phone call and the mother not picking up the phone. And so the novel is kind of goes into that and depth through a sort of fictional scenario. What an authentic way to come at a book idea. That's amazing. How interesting. Thank you. I love this question. MEREDITH Michael says. Food is almost its own character in the book. It plays such an important role in bringing people together. When you were writing, how did you view foods role to the story? We may have already kind of talked about that. Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, food, definitely as a form of storytelling as a way of communicating survival of history,...

...culture, um, Margot gaining a different understanding of her mother through food, realizing that, you know, for Margo there were these meals that she wanted to get away from. But I think now that her mother is gone. You know, I think about this myself, too. I think about when my mother passes, you know, where will I learn? Where will I get my recipes from? I'm always She's there. She's I always I I take her for granted and I assume she's always gonna be there to make me certain things or just always been things. But you know, as sort of food as a way as a way of keeping knowledge and sort of passing down knowledge. So, yeah, that kind of just expands on. I mean, I know we've already spoken a lot about food, and we're all hungry at this point. But as a literary device, the one thing caught my attention. One, you know, first of all, we just say anyone who's tasted Korean food could never call it boring. Let me just say I think, But you sometimes would say it's a bench on or you would say it's snacks, snacks, and sometimes you would use the name of the food and not tell people what it was was. How did you decide when to do that? I thought that was really interesting. Yeah, that's actually a great question, and it's never that's never been asked me. So that's that's really awesome that you actually pointed that out. I How did I decide? I You know what? When I was writing this book, you know, it's a third person perspective, but you're still kind of writing within the perspective of the character themselves. And so I was thinking about what Margo and or Mina actually think of the dish as being. And so I did use Korean words to sort of describe, um, like there's like a sauteed spinach, I think, and you know, So I used the Korean, you know, words to sort of describe that, um so I felt like it was really important. And there's also Spanish language in the book that's not translated. I felt like it was really important to normalize the words that we actually that the characters actually use in the world of the book and to sort of, you know, interesting to sort of, you know, to sort of help, you know, sort of reinforce the idea that these are ordinary aspects of that character's life. And that's how she thinks of things, which is I really, you know, Korean and English and some Spanish. And yeah, I think it added a lot to book. And I'm thank you for answering that. And we're going to have you keep talking because our favorite part of the show is listening to our guest authors writing, too. So, Nancy, can you give us a little bit of wisdom? Because I know people like to hear it, including us. Oh, thanks so much for asking. You know, I can use all the tips I can get. So, you know, the last weekend I was on a panel and somebody asked me about writer's block and I froze when he asked me about writer's block because I didn't exactly even know what they meant. But for me, and I think it's a question that comes up a lot like what exactly does that mean in like, How do you get through it for me? The reason why it froze on the question is I don't actually encounter writer's block the way most people do. I think when we think of writers blog, we think of we're looking at a blank screen and we have no idea like what to do, like what do I do next, right? But for me, when every time, Every time I and I take the pressure off of myself every time I encounter in the blank screen and I don't know what to do. I actually picked very small tests that I can work on. And I find that usually if I am fixated on this plot, plot issue, character issue of these big theme issues, you know, the overarching issues that I'm having, that puts a lot of pressure. So instead I will pick something that's almost like playing cards with my novel or just being supportive or spending time with my novel like I Will say, You know what? I can't think of a solution to this. So I'm going to spend today on punctuation. I'm going to spend today with, uh, I want to spend today looking at repetition within sentences like I literally will pick tasks that are like small, like my new show like sort of breakdowns of manageable things that allow me to feel productive but are don't solve the problem. And I find that if I work enough on even those small things, I'm subconsciously touching the novel in an interesting way, and I'm creating connections on a level that will eventually reveal itself. And so, and it's usually reveals itself at the most inconvenient time, right? Like when your not computer exactly like a night with your baby. And you're like, uh or something. Yeah. You're finally dozing off. Yeah. So I think it's really important to spend time with the manuscript, but it doesn't have to always have that much pressure. I think that's part of it. You know, it's a great It's a really good advice. That's really good advice. Thank you for that. I'm definitely gonna use that type. For sure I'm talking about I was just going to say I have done this. Where I I write down the question I have about the plot. I write it down long hand in a notebook and I'll say, Why does she do that? Oh, that I might write. I don't know why she does that. Why could she do that?...

Mhm. I like that. So you're having a conversation with yourself in in longhand because I find I'm such a fast type. Is that if I If I take the time, let the ideas flow through my fingertips? No. Yes. It makes a lot of things like that. Yeah. Okay, well, now we're gonna talk about Mama Geraldine's. Yeah. Oh, no, no, no. A book. You know, I'm no You want a girl? Things has a book, has a book suggestions A really good. And we would love to hear that. But, Nancy, do you also have a book that you've read lately that you would like to share with us? Thanks for asking. You know, I've been reading a lot of Children's books lately. As you guys know, baby books. Goodnight, Goodnight, Moon. But so I am thinking about books that I read in 2020 instead. And it was a very difficult year for debuts because of the pandemic and everything going on in the world in the country. And so, um, I was thinking about the views that really stuck with me. And there's this one. It's called the Undocumented Americans By Carla Cornejo Villavicencio. It's a book of nonfiction, and it is a blend of memoir and reporting that I think is really I love the style of it. It's written with this voice that has its you know, when you look at the topic of it. You would think that this is going to be heartbroken, but it's heartbreaking, but it's also filled with so much love and joy and magic. And I just think it's such an important book for Americans to read, because it's not only a portrait of a group of people, but it's a portrait of our country and sort of the ways in which, um, you know, undocumented people are sort of embedded in our everyday lives in a very surprising ways. So, um, I definitely will recommend that. And that is the debut of 2020. Thank you. Thank you. And I think you had a book you wanted to recommend to. You know, speaking of debuts, I think it's still difficult to be a debut author. I mean, we're still kind of in this weird place where we can't tour, we can't get out there. And we were just on the cusp of being able to do that again. But I wanted to mention the final revival of Opel and never, which is a right. Have you read it? Never heard a great I've heard great things. Yeah. So it's by Dani Walton. I think So she's a debut novelist. Um, it comes out, I believe. Next Tuesday, Publishers Weekly called it a spectacular debut in a starred Review, New York Times best selling author Kylie Read calls it lovely and lyrical, a warm and wonderful intersection between journalism and fiction, which I know several of us who are journalists in a former life can get behind. Um, and it is just It's so, as Nancy said, just so highly, uh, touted, highly recommended. It's a great book. It's about the 19 seventies rock duo. They're sensational breakup and the dark secrets that are unearthed as they try to reunite for one last tour. So it's very interesting the final revival of Opel and Nev. And we'll make sure to think a little bit of Daisy Jones in the six. Yeah, yeah, yeah, my favorite of the year. Yeah. Be sure to put the recommendations up on the Facebook page for all of you to see. So Nancy will have a final question for you coming up in just a few minutes. But we have a few announcements. First. Everyone hold tight. I just want to make sure first page one. So we have first we want to say You want to talk about Mama juice? Really? Want to say I be sending you extra cheese straws? I really, really, really could not say Hilarious Along with Mama Juice, we want to thank our partner Page one for because where else can you get a curated book, but in an independent bookstore and from Page one and you get 10% off with Fab Five? Don't forget your vote now Mama G's finally well, we love We love our Mama G's. Well, you know, it's not just straws. They have key lime cookies and the mini Sydney Sydney minis. One last line, um, they have in the gluten free for our friends Patty and for Christie. And, you know, um, go to, um, Mama Geraldine's dot com and put in the Fab Five for you Discount and I don't know if everyone knows, but we do have an amazing friends and fiction podcast. In addition to our weekly show on Wednesday nights, we also have brand new fresh fun interviews, And so this Friday, March 26 you can find a really great fun interview that I just did with books to...

...grammar. Stephanie Gray of the book Lover Book Club and Megan Briggs of, um, Megan's Book Club. And it was so fun to get to see sort of the other side of this world. And they offered lots of good advice for people who are wanting to get into the books to Graham World and also advice about how they took their books to Graham Platform and transformed it into another business. So it was a really fascinating talk, um, Long this Friday. Yeah, I can't wait for you guys to hear it. They were so fascinating. Oh, it sounds wonderful. I'm excited to hear it. So speaking of things, we have coming up next Wednesday, March 31st, we will end the month of March with two leading historical fiction authors and friends. Kate Quinn, Who's the Rose code, was an instant New York Times bestseller last week and is on the list again this week, which is wonderful. And Stephanie Dre, who's the women of Chateau Lafayette, which comes out this coming Tuesday, was just a dazzling, spectacular book. I admire both of them so much, and I can't wait to talk to them. I can't wait for you all to hear to hear us talk to them and to ask them your questions, too. So also as a special bonus. Next week, the world, the world, you guys will have its first viewing of the book trailer for our very own Christie Woodson. Harvey's under the Southern Sky, which will be out in less than a month. So I forgot. So excited. I forgot a book was coming out clear that the book is coming out. I forgot about the trailer. Don't forget to join us next Wednesday, March 31st 7 p.m. Eastern time. We're gonna have a lot of all right now for one final question. And this is a question that it's my favorite that we love to ask a lot of our authors. And I can't wait to hear this because your first generation daughter from a bilingual family So what were the values around reading and writing when you were growing up? And do you think they had anything to do with you becoming a writer? Oh, that's such a great question. Um, no one has asked me that question either. This is so this is fun. Yeah, you know, it's interesting because my mother. She worked so much she rarely saw her reading. We didn't. I didn't grow up in a house with a ton of books. Um, because, yeah, she worked so much that, you know, reading was not a part of her life, necessarily. But from a very young age, I was very fortunate to grow up within walking distance to a library. And libraries are so important because they are open doors to anybody from any walk of life who wants to walk in and is curious about the world. And so for me, I was the type of kid who you know, I maxed out my library card every single week. I would check out, you know, 10 books a week. I didn't read all 10 books, but just having those books with me and sort of they were sort of like friends. They sort of accompanied me through my life and, you know, just growing up in a family that was very small and often being feeling very alone, it really sort of encouraged me to sort of, you know, fall in love with storytelling even though it was so absent from my everyday life and because my mother was working so hard and we spoke different languages. Also, my mother speaking Korean and me speaking English and so, um, libraries and just being within walking distance to one and just the important role that librarians and booksellers have within our communities. Um, making storytelling accessible, creating, allowing us to access worlds where we can see ourselves and sort of dream bigger than our everyday lives. I think that's so important. Yeah, I believe we went. Go ahead. I would like to say we love how many people always refer to libraries and how important. I think if we went back and took everybody's answers, I bet 95% have said how important libraries were. Yeah, so I love hearing it again and again and again, thank you. And I have to say, everybody, This was such a wonderful evening, Nancy, Thank you for your comments. They were enlightening, and everyone out there. Nancy's thought provoking book is a must read the last story of nationally, and it's available at Pegasus books and wherever books are sold. And that went fast. That's our show for tonight. If you've missed episodes, you can catch them on our website at www dot friends and fiction dot com on our YouTube page and as well as at parade dot com, where every week one of us offers a wonderful essay and please check out our exciting podcast, too. And so with that, we'll see you next week. So thank you, Nancy A. Wow. She was amazing, wasn't she? I mean, I couldn't so many questions, so...

...many questions that just I want to talk about mothers and daughters and fathers and everything was great. I think she had such great things to say about, um, the immigrant experience. And I think so many of us are Children. I mean, my father was first generation Irish American, and my grandmother and my grandfather were came over from Ireland. Um, and I can remember trying to talk. I was fascinated with Ireland as a kid, and I tried to ask my grandmother questions and she said those were hard times. I don't want to. Yeah, interesting. She said that Yeah, my grandfather never talked about the war like ever. He never talked about it, and, you know, sometimes somebody would ask him something and he would just sort of divert question. It's got to be PTSD at some level. Yeah, I decided that that was the past. That was a healthy way to get past. Yeah, well, I think maybe sort of. Like, um, Nancy's mother. My grandmother came over literally. An indentured servant, a doctor or a judge. Paid her her, um, fair on the ship. She came over with $5 and, um, she'd been orphaned. And, um, you know, she she worked as a maid, and and so she she really did not want to dwell on those times. That was your grandmother. Yeah. That's wow. That's incredible. Think about how many generations? Not very many. And what you're doing today? Yeah. Isn't that Yeah, That's an incredible thought. You know what? I'm sorry, man. I like this time and how proud they'd be, though. I mean, you know, just so many of us, not just the five of us here, but just so many of us have figured out how to make our way. And this is a This is a country that lets us do that. You know, it's it's the American dream, right? Well, and you think about, um, my grandmother. I remember she did tell me that when she got to Chicago, where my grand, where my grandparents lived and where my dad was and his siblings were born, Um, she said there were signs everywhere in front of stores that help wanted Irish need not apply. I had no idea about that thing. I The thing I think about now is that their immigrant experience was different because when they got here, they spoke English. That's so true. Yes, yes, that I mean, that removes one of the I mean, just one of the layers. Yeah, absolutely. You know what those signs? Said Kathy. When they said no Irish, it was a bad word. They said No Patties. Wow, they would put that sign. Pat Patties was a negative negative drug, drug, drug or for a sense of other. It's always a negative. It's always you're not one of us. It's based on fear. And that's still happening today. Yeah, and then the thing that happens, I I remember observing from my dad's history and his history lived. He grew up in an all Irish Catholic neighborhood. He didn't know anybody who was an Irish or Catholic, and so the first thing they did when they got assimilated a little bit was to discriminate on the next people. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I understand the cycle just keeps going. Uh, my grandmother never spoke English. I mean, we and I always felt I never knew her and she died, you know, in her 6 58. So which is young, you know, so I didn't know it, but she was always smiling and waving, giving us food. But she did only spoke German, and it was sad, so I never knew her. Wow. You know what's interesting? I was thinking, This is Nancy was talking tonight. It's a thread that kind of runs through my world War two novels also is that there's a lot of silence when you've gone through trauma, right? Like you don't necessarily talk about your stories. But I think you passed down the stories in a way. Anyhow, even if the people don't know the stories themselves, you pass down the effects of the things that have happened to you. Because everything that happens to you shapes you, and then those things go into shaping your child. So, um, you know, I think we're more product of our parents than than any of us probably realized. Well, they're talking about ancestral memory. Yeah, they're starting to prove that ancestral memory is something, whether it's trauma from the Holocaust or war, that even if it's not talked about it's built into our DNA. Uh, yeah. Plus, we have ancestor dot com. Now you can get you in trouble Speaking out a fascinating podcast interview about what we did. We interviewed Jessica Strasser, whose...

...book is about a girl who gets a DNA test and found that And the sweetie sisters Yeah, there's several found in this past year, um, that have that is sort of a plot device. Um, Shapira wrote a memoir about it. She found out my dad wasn't her dad. Wow. Well, you guys, this that I had someone emailed me the other day and say that after she had read Peachtree Black, she just had always had these, like, weird feelings about her family. And she, like, did some DNA testing and realized that like nothing about her family was like, Oh, it was. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry. And she was like, No, it's good. Like I'm glad. I know, But I was like, You know, you do sort of. I think it's interesting that people have those kinds of, like, inklings like something, you know, you my family, right? You know, Christie, I think I was just telling you last night in the conversation that we had that I couldn't put a finger on what drew me to writing about Eastern Poland in the Forest of Vanishing Stars. And I was about three quarters of the way through writing that book when my brother sent me our ancestry dot com family tree. And it turned out that the actual harm ALS from my family, the Jewish Carmel's and my family came from the exact same area of eastern Poland. And I had never known. Yes, yes, I was three quarters of the way I was absolutely not. What led me to writing about writing that book? Of all the areas I could have chosen, I chose I chose the harm alone lands, which is crazy. Which is what you could have named it when we when we were looking for a title. Remember when we were all texting Harmel Homeland could have been one of them. I I problem. I like what she said about food as a way of handing down memories. I'd never I know you all have probably thought about it that way. But I had never thought about food as kind of an ancestral handing down of memories and stories like food as a story. Yeah, remember? Do you remember reading a tree grows in Brooklyn? Just Kristi's a little obsessed. Yes, and she was so ashamed of the of the food that her family eight, because it was, you know, she wanted normal American food is it's been a real long time, but and I think that's I read that in so many other books where it's like they just I want to be assimilated. I want to be American. I don't want this trashy ghetto food that my family always fixed. There is never a day that I don't drink coffee every day, But there is never a day that I don't drink a cup of coffee that I do not think about Katie Nolan, France's mother, giving them that one cup of coffee a day that they could pour down the drain and her sister saying That's so wasteful. And she was like everybody needs something that they can waste. And I never drink a cup of coffee that I don't think about that powerful. Yeah. Now I'm hungry. I'm starving, I think. Yeah, Yeah. Does anyone else wish the after show lasted? I owe you guys order takeout to be delivered. Exactly. You remember out there, we log on early, and so we're getting angry at this point. I have been reading all these World War Two historical fiction novels. You know, I'm knee deep in Lisa Scottoline, Ease new on eternal. And then I just finished reading. Um, last week, you know, we had Ariel and Jennifer Harry on Jennifer, which were World War two set in, um, France and, uh, Italy and the er Satz Coffee? Yeah, they were, You know, they boiled chick. Really? Not even cipri acorns and all kinds of Yes. And that's happening that's happening in eternal too. I'm like, Yeah, I don't drink coffee, but I am such a coffee snob that No, thank you. Wait until you read about the coffee they made in the middle of the forest and the Forest of Venice. Wait About the Harmel homeland called way. I have a great mystery plot. One of you who likes to write mysteries. When I was on state collapse, we learned that the Southern Yo pop has is the only plant shrub in the United States that has caffeine in it. But it's 10 times stronger than normal, like a caffeine from the beans. So I have a cup of tea, dear have trouble. But I think this thing that you know, the fact that, um, and so many of these books it's sort of the the symbol of deprivation. The one...

...the one thing that they crave so much that they can't they can't have and that they trade. You know, when it's being the first thing that you know. That's the first luxury that comes to mind that chocolate at six. AM I trade a lot of things. Well, right now I'm starving. I'm gonna go get some everyone, everybody. They thank you for tuning in. Join us every week on Facebook or YouTube, where our live show airs every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Eastern time. And please subscribe to our podcast and follow us on Instagram. We're so glad you're here. Yeah,.

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