The Saturday Reading List: Seoul Food

Seoul Food: Short Stories of a Korean American Living in Los Angeles

by Sarai Koo

“From my constant observations of people’s lives, I discovered that my college friends, friends or acquaintances back home, people throughout society, and I had ka-shi that intentionally or unintentionally projected onto others. Our past wounds, those undesired rotten ka-shis, resided in our souls and pierced out of our bodies.”

– Sarai Koo, Seoul Food

*ka-shi = fish bone or something that needs to be taken out or else damage starts

The Stats:

  • Short stories, non-fiction, autobiographical
  • 4/5
  • Warnings: Not really any specific warnings other than prepared to be humbled. There’s also a few Korean terms but they’re all explained when they’re brought up and there’s a glossary in the back in case you forget. Also, some of the food descriptions might make you hungry so, empty stomaches beware!

From Amazon: 

“Seoul Food is a creative non-fiction book about the lives of second-generation Korean Americans growing up in Los Angeles County–the Mecca for diversity of cultures. Targeting a young adult readership, Seoul Food captures snapshots of Korean lifestyles of as well as an inherent, sometimes shameful, dysfunctional family and lifestyle created by the disconnect between Korean-born parents and their American-born children. The book not only infuses the work with credibility, but also brings to light quintessential aspects, including universal issues confronting many youth of many cultures.

Stories of Korean Americans’ private experiences may go unnoticed, or their lives may be misinterpreted. Most often, media portray Koreans as the model minority. Seoul Food wittingly and subtly unpacks these perceptions with a candidness and humor that will cause readers to rethink their assumptions. As Korean music, drama, culture, and food have spiced the lives of many people across the globe, Seoul Food is a literary work that will find its home in your heart.”

Zo’s Review:

So I’ll start by saying this typically isn’t my usual genre of book to read. Actually, I probably would never had picked it up on my own. However, a friend gave me this book along with another (that I still need to finish) after one of our college’s Christian fellowship’s weekly meetings. She said that she knew the author and that I should read it. I agreed to look at it but honestly, with it being my last year of college and wanting to spend time hanging out with people, I never really got past the first few chapters until now.

Personally, as a black female in America I believe it’s important to hear and respect the stories of those different from us. I always find it so amazing how when you take the time, you realize that differences you thought you had with someone aren’t as big as you thought. That’s how I felt reading Sarai Koo’s story.

Seoul Food is broken up into three different parts: “Pojagi” (a traditional Korean wrapping cloth), “Bibimbap and Banchan” (mixed rice and side dishes served with a main dish), and “Jeon” (Korean pancake made with vegetables and sometimes with seafood). Each part has a particular focus and purpose. Pojagi focuses on Koo’s experience and identity as a Korean American born and raised in Los Angeles and the cultural clashes she had with her parents, Korean and non-Korean people close to her, and with herself. Bibimbap and Banchan takes a look at the different people around her and the misconceptions and stereotypes that the other Korean American children she knew faced. Jeon goes in-depth at Koo’s identity leading her to who she is now.

I really liked Seoul Food because it had two things that I really enjoyed: food and honesty. Some chapters were written short and simple and basically what was said was what was meant. Sometimes I chuckled, sometimes I nodded in agreement, and sometimes I just had to pause and take it all in. Other chapters seemed to cut deeper, and despite not being Korean or a first generation American in my family, I felt myself resonating with a lot of things including the struggles with the expectations that family and those who barely even know you have upon you and struggling to find your identity that honors those before you but also yourself as well. Seoul Food was an amazing reminder that we all go through many things and until we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with each other and share our stories then yeah, it will seem like we have nothing in common. Sarai Koo took that risk and was vulnerable and showed that a young Korean American girl growing up in Los Angeles had more than one thing in common with a young African American girl growing up in Chicago.

Thanks to Helen who recommended it to me.

What do you guys think? Have you read Seoul Food already? Have any other book suggestions that I should add to my Saturday Reading List? Leave your thoughts behind in the comments. Just be respectful please.

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2 thoughts on “The Saturday Reading List: Seoul Food

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