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Miles from Nowhere

  • Writer
    Nami Mun
  • Country
    U.S.A.
  • Publisher
  • Published Year
    2008
  • Genre
    Literature - Chinese literature -

Description

A major voice in fiction debuts with the story of a teenage runaway on the streets of 1980s New York.

Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father's infidelity; he has left the family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of thirteen, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes the painful difficulties of a life lived on the margins. Joon's adolescent years take her from a homeless shelter to an escort club, through struggles with addiction, to jobs selling newspapers and cosmetics, committing petty crimes, and finally toward something resembling hope.

 

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 1, 2008
    Mun's first novel is a 1980s urban odyssey in which Joon-Mee, a 12-year-old Korean-American, leaves her troubled Bronx family for the life of a New York City runaway. The novel follows Joon over six years, as she lives in a homeless shelter, finds work as an underage escort and a streetwalker, succumbs to drug addiction and petty crime, then tries to turn it all around. Along the way we meet a cast of addicts, grifters and homeless people, including Wink, a boisterous but vulnerable young street veteran (“I didn't even know they had boy prostitutes”); Knowledge, a friend who ropes Joon into helping steal her family's Christmas tree; and Benny, a drugged-up orderly and self-destructive love interest. Mun is careful not to lean on the '80s ambience, and Joon's voice, purged of self-pity, sounds clear and strong on every page. Individual scenes, including Joon's first john, her interview with an antagonistic employment counselor and her climactic encounter with a good-hearted former neighbor, are wonderfully written. Unfortunately, the novel's episodic structure prevents Joon's story from building to anything greater than its parts.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from October 1, 2008
    This first novel covers about five years in the life of Korean American teenager Joon. The daughter of Korean immigrants, Joon runs away from home at age 13 after her mother self-destructs when she is abandoned by her husband. The story of Joon's descent into heroin addiction and prostitution on the streets of New York is grim but absolutely authentic. And as Joon witnesses the disintegration of some of her friends, the reader gets the feeling that she will be able to save herself. Three key scenes late in the book provide gripping climaxes of different sorts. One is an extended sequence in which Joon tries to sell Avon door to door to people who are mentally ill. Another is a chilling, drug-induced interlude with a boyfriend who cuts Joon. The last is a desperate encounter at an employment agency, where Joon must decide whether she's ready to stop running. Joon's wish to belong somewhere is reminiscent of the teenage girl's search for a home in Janet Fitch's "White Oleander". A haunting debut by an author who made her own journey from runaway to writer; recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, "LJ" 9/15/08.]Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC

    Copyright 2008 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.