When we first meet Yi Jin, the lithe heroine of Kyung-Sook Shin's atmospheric, tragic novel The Court Dancertranslated by Anton Hur, she stands at a ship's helm beside "a tall Frenchman, his pale face covered in a mustache," while she holds "a hat embroidered with roses and a coat to wear later when the wind blew," with a "light blue dress that rustled like lapping waves." That last image is appropriate, since Jin is gazing out on the ocean for the first time. Her Western garb strikes passersby as shocking, since at that point in time Korea, the original "Hermit Kingdom," was largely sequestered from the wider world. Jin's cross-cultural cross-dressing will not be the last time she serves as a bridge between East and West.

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