Sunday, April 24, 2011

NPR's Racially Inappropriate look at Please Look After Mom

I stumbled across a critique of Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin at NPR by Maureen Corrigan There are so many unnecessary classless adjectives, it's beyond ridiculous, inappropriate and unprofessional. Corrigan tops it off with a nice little racial dig at the end. I am so disgusted and trying to calm down to start from the beginning.

Please Look After Mom is Shin's English language debut. It sold over a million copies in South Korea. A few weeks back, I told Vasilly another Color Online contributor about Please Look After Mom. Vasilly started reading it first and said it was amazing. I quickly added it to my reading queue. I finished the book in three sittings and loved it.

There's a lot of buzz around this release, so I decided to search for a few literary reviews to link to when I did my review this coming week. This lead me to the NPR, whatever that is, I refuse to call it a review and I barely want to call it a critique.

Part of me is screaming inside because I felt Please Look After Mom was so beautifully done. Though I understand everyone isn't going to feel the same way. So I can easily put that aside. Even if I hadn't yet read Shin's novel I would still take offense to what Corrigan wrote. I am not the only one. It's received 59 comments. Many have noted the line of the last paragraph.

"Having just read Patti Smith's award-winning memoir, Just Kids, for the second time, I'd urge you to pick her empowering female adventure tale about getting lost in the city instead. Smith will get your book club on its feet and pumping its collective fists in the air, rather than knocking back the wine and reaching for the cheap consolations of kimchee-scented Kleenex fiction"

How in the hell was kimchee-scented Kleenex, even allowed to see the light of day. That's some serious racial BullShit

Even before that last line there was so much bitterness and uncalled for personal jabs. As well as inaccuracies.

"Did you catch the anti-city, anti-modernist, anti-feminist messages in that passage?"The lost mother clearly stands for values that are fading from Korean culture as industrialization and urbanization triumph."

If you've read Please Look After Me, you know that's incorrect. Corrigan only shares what she hopes will prove her point. While clearly dismissing the strength of the mother and her desire for her children to have more opportunities than she did.

Corrigan and NPR also felt the need to include a photograph of the author.

Now every time Shin looks at that photo she may be reminded of this ugliness.
As far as I know neither Corrigan or NPR as issued a statement of apology. Not even a half ass one, where they simply claim ignorance.

Is the NPR Review of Please Look After Mom Racist? @ Ask a Korean (a must read)

Corriagan's critique of Please Look After Mom went up on Apr 5 the same day Kyung-Sook Shin had her American Debut Celebration. Do I think this is a coincidence? Hell NO. Just more ugliness.

Vasilly's lovely review of Please Look After Mom


Zee said...

The review was disgusting but the book looks interesting. Thanks for the recommendation!

Vasilly said...

That review was so tasteless that it shouldn't be called a review but just Corrigan's opinion. I've read the NY Times review of this book and it seems like these "reviewers" have no idea what this book is about or even care to know because it's set in a culture different from their own.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I love translations. I love books by authors from cultures different than mine. This is going on my TBR list for sure. Thanks for the review of the "review". I hope this post gets a lot of notice.

Tere Kirkland said...

Wow, yeah, the Kimchee scented Kleenex thing was definitely unnecessary. I call serious racist bullshit on that, too.

Seems like this book is getting flack from Western audiences who--despite the immersive nature of the point of view--are letting their own life experiences and cultural biases color what they're reading. I'll have to give it a shot. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

I read the opening line of the review "Mama Mia, who knew that Koreans outstrip Italians and Jews when it comes to mother guilt!" , and my answer was "But everyone knows that!". Seriously, any one remotely familiar with Asian culture knows that filial duty is held to be extremely important.
The review primarily serves to expose Corrigan's ignorance--and her biases.

Emily said...

Thanks for bringing this "review" at NPR to my attention--it's disgusting, and doesn't even make sense at times.

I've heard so much about this book--and loved Vasilly's review. I plan on buying this for my mom for Mother's Day.

Unknown said...

As I read the book, I could make comparisons to those families and strong women in my life and those I love. Rememberances of things past, and understanding, sometimes long overdue, welled in my heart.

You will be a better person, you will be more loving, more understanding...upon completion.

Unbelievable and unique...BRAVO!
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Marlene Detierro said...

This book will take you on a parade of different emotions You will not be disappointed in this book. I recommend it to everyone interested in Korea and the inner workings of a family.