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Title/Author/Genre

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    Title: Our Neighborhood’s Own Ms. Mi-jah

    Author: Yoo Eun-sil

    Genre: Children’s fiction

     

    LTI Korea staff: Alex Baek (alex_b@klti.or.kr / +82-2-6919-7741)

Description

  • About the book

     

    We Are All Lonely!

     

    Our Neighborhood’s Own Ms. Mi-jah is a set of three independent stories that work together as a sequential trilogy. The first story, “A Gift in a Box, for Mi-jah”, introduces Mi-jah, this woman who haunts her block, always eager for whatever snacks and left-overs her reluctant neighbors will give her, and tells of how she happens to receive a special gift – a box, most of whose contents she will use as directed by a list of ‘ten ways’ posted on the inter-net, having first found the spirit of generosity in herself and shared several of these articles among various people of the neighborhood.

     

    In the second story, “Two Pollock”, we read of what transpires when Mi-jah is given some frozen fish and then makes a pot of ‘ordinary’ pollock stew with her neighbor, the girl named Seong-ji. Bearing yet another gift, “A Worn-Out Fox-Fur Stole” completes the trilogy with Sul-lyeh Hal-meo-ni, or Grandma Sul-lyeh, moving away from the neighborhood and presenting Mi-jah with an old stole of fox-fur before her departure, so that Mi-jah yearns to dress up and impress a local vendor while Seong-ji is determined to teach her about the cruel abuse of animals.

     

    One might wonder why these stories for children were written with an adult as the main character, but Mi-jah transcends age and presents a problem that is universal – the condition of the isolated individual, lost and alone. Is there anyone, anywhere in this world, who has never felt lonely? Today’s children are as sensitive as the children of any other time, and as susceptible to loneliness as anyone. With an emphasis on success through constant competition and conquest, the modern world seldom teaches children anything at all about compassion – so there is little or no chance of living without some sense of alienation or emptiness. Because we have all been lonely, and because there is love within all of us, we feel sympathy with this M-jah, regarded with pity even by Seong-ji as the loneliest person in the world; we understand her and, reading through these stories, we want her to be happy.

     

    Although smart little Seong-ji strives to dominate through superior strength and audacity, she is but a lonely child, herself, fragile and angered even to the point of tears by Mi-jah’s words and behavior. These two, who seem to have no ties to anyone in the world, reach out to establish a connection in spite of the difference between their ages, and by the end of the book, having watched them argue, share a meal, hold each other and cry together, we feel catharsis. As we begin to read the first story, we may be confused about why Mi-jah lives in such a limited way, but the situation becomes clear in the course of reading, and we come to see into the heart of Mi-jah. Our new understanding of Mi-jah enables us to understand others, as well, and the tendency to dismiss those on the margins of society is destroyed by a new sense of compassion. From Mi-jah, one receives the gift of a mind that is open towards all, knowing that no-one in the world is immune to isolation and despair.

     

    Again, not everything known as a “children’s book” is just for children, and many of these works should be considered literature, appropriate for everyone, though written so that children may read them. With the communication between Mi-jah and Seong-ji, the author of these stories has given us a critical commentary on modern society and challenged us to remember that others are not less lonely than ourselves.

     

    About the author

     

    Yoo Eun-sil was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1974. As an author of children’s literature, she made her debut in 2004 with the story, “My Name Is Baek-Seok”, published in Changbi Children’s Magazine. Since then, she has published My Mrs. Lindgren (Changbi, 2005), Grandma Ma-goh Who Came To My House (Wind’s Children, 2005), All Flag Kid (Changbi, 2007), The Most Normal Kid, Yi Yoo-jeong (Pu-reun Sup, 2008) and The Last Event (Wind’s Children, 2010), among other stories. Told with both genuine love and linguistic versatility, many of Ms. Yoo’s stories present the lives of individuals who must endure some lack or deprivation, and the public has shown a strong approval of her work. In January of 2004, My Mrs. Lindgren was published in China.

     

    About the translators

     

    In addition to teaching English and various cultural and educational pursuits, Chung Hwa and Andrew Keast have been working together on the translation of Korean literature and children’s books since 2007. Their work has been supported by the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, and their English versions of three modern short stories were presented in Asia Publishers’ recent series of bi-lingual editions. For their translation in 2013 of Park Seong-won’s story, “By Motor-Home to Ulan Bator”, the Keasts took the second place in The Korea Times’ annual Korean Literature Translation Awards of 2013. They now reside in Flint, Michigan, having lived in northern California and several cities in Korea.

     

    Media Response/Awards Received

     

    “With books such as My Mrs. Lindgren, All Flag Kid and The Last Event, Yoo Eun-sil has pursued her desire to gain insight into people and society, and her work continues to look at life with an abundance of humor.”

    - The Hankook-ilbo

     

     

Translated Books (3)

News from Abroad (3)