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Shoko's Smile

By Choi Eunyoung and Sung Ryu
Shoko's Smile by Choi Eunyoung and Sung Ryu digital book - Fable

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Publisher Description

A bestselling and award-winning debut collection from one of South Korea's most prominent young writers.

In crisp, unembellished prose, Eun-young Choi paints intimate portraits of the lives of young women in South Korea, balancing the personal with the political. In the title story, a fraught friendship between an exchange student and her host sister follows them from adolescence to adulthood. In "A Song from Afar," a young woman grapples with the death of her lover, traveling to Russia to search for information about the deceased. In "Secret," the parents of a teacher killed in the Sewol ferry sinking hide the news of her death from her grandmother.
In the tradition of Sally Rooney, Banana Yoshimoto, and Marilynne Robinson--writers from different cultures who all take an unvarnished look at human relationships and the female experience--Choi Eunyoung is a writer to watch.

27 Reviews

“3.5 stars! got this as a gift but i originally added this to my tbr because of uncarley’s yearly favorites video. i found some of the stories here really gripping and struggled to connect with others. the book’s blurb compares the writing to that of sally rooney’s and i kind of saw that but also didn’t. not at all actually. i think the author’s voice is really unique and i’d love to read a full length novel from them sometime in the future!”
“i loved that this book was a collection of short stories (reminded me of black swans by eve babitz) but also had many aspects that were reminiscent of sally rooney or naoise dolan. there were many social issues discussed in a very mundane way that gave importance to what the characters were feeling or thinking on misogyny, mental health, war, violence, remembrance, immigration, religion and faith, class, terminal illnesses, politics… and still manages to develop complex relationships and dynamics between characters in 7 different stand alone stories. absolutely loved it. this is how i would rate each story individually and a quote i loved from each one! - shoko’s smile 5/5 “For her to call someone a friend, they had to be a safe distance away, out of sight and out of earshot, with absolutely zero chance of ever intruding on her life.” - xin chào, xin chào 5/5 “whenever a relationship came to an end, I pondered who had left and who was left behind. Sometimes I was the one who left, sometimes the one left behind, but when a relationship I especially cherished broke down, I wasn’t sure who left whom. Both sides left at times, both were left behind at others, the line between leaving and being left often blurred.” - sister, my little soonae 4.5/5 “You shouldn’t give away what’s yours all the time. Or else you’ll make a habit of giving and giving” - hanji and youngju 3.5/5 “It wasn’t the face of someone trying to comfort me, nor that of someone offering empty clichés. Neither was it the face of an adult who couldn’t even smile without feeling self-conscious. Hanji’s face was simply, naturally, relaxed.” - a song from afar 3/5 “Is being a woman really that embarrassing and painful? Women are emotional, disruptive, selfish, and therefore more likely to betray the organization; a woman’s enemy is another woman. Is that sort of self-denial the healthiness you talk of?” - michaela 3.5/5 “But not everything that the many useful people in the world did seemed truly useful to the world.” - the secret 3/5 “She couldn’t tell her, You were my first teacher, you were the first person to praise me warmly.””
“Hanji and Youngju fue mi historia favorita <3 "My simplicity, keeping me from understanding him to the end." "Is being a woman really that embarassing and painful? Women are emotional, disruptive, selfish, and therefore more likely to betray the organization; a woman's enemy is another woman. Is that sort of self-denial the healthiness you talk of?"”
“the first and last story in this book are possibly the saddest pieces of literature I’ve ever read”
“what do you know about jimin and anpanman?”

About Choi Eunyoung

Choi Eunyoung is a South Korean writer acclaimed for her nuanced yet poignant stories about women, queer people, victims of state violence, and other marginalized voices. She is the author of the bestselling story collections Shoko's Smile and Someone Who Can't Hurt Me, which have sold over 200,000 copies and 150,000 copies respectively in Korea and is being translated into several languages. Since her literary debut in 2013, she has received numerous accolades, including the Munhakdongne Young Writers Award (2014, 2017, 2020), Heo Kyun Literary Award, Lee Haejo Literary Award, and Hankook Ilbo Literary Award. Both of her story collections were selected as the best fiction title of the year by 50 Korean writers (2016, 2018). She has also published a Korean-English bilingual edition of her novella The Summer and contributed to many anthologies.
Sung Ryu is a Korean-English translator who grew up in South Korea, the US, and Canada, her most recent home being Singapore. Her translations include Tower by Bae Myung-hoon (2021), I'm Waiting for You: And Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young (co-translated with Sophie Bowman, 2021), and the Korean edition of Grandma Moses: My Life's History by Anna Mary Robertson Moses (2017). She translated the Jeju myth "Segyeong Bonpuri" (Origins of the Harvest Deities) for her MA thesis.

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