Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"There is nothing simplistic or sensationalized here as Mun, a writer of gravitas, portrays the dispossessed and the cast-out, reminding us how quickly things can go disastrously wrong, how tough it is to live outside the margins." Booklist
"A haunting debut by an author who made her own journey from runaway to writer." Library Journal
"For those who enjoy strictly lighthearted reads, this might not be enough. But those who delight in the raw power of words have a new author to add to our libraries." Dallas Morning News
"A starkly beautiful book, shot through with grace and lit by an off-hand street poetry. Nami Mun takes a cast of junkies and runaways and brings them fiercely and frankly to life. It's a measure of the artistry of the work that even in their grimmest, darkest moments, rather than being repelled by these characters, we want to stay beside them, as if to care for them, or at least to bear witness to their lives." Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl
"Suspenseful, funny, painful, and poetic, Nami Mun's debut shows a talent for close observation and a prose that fills the grit of street life with flashes of gold." Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black
"Nami Mun is easily one of the most important new talents in American fiction." Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh
"Stunning. The visceral power of Nami Mun's Miles from Nowhere sneaks up on you whatever heartache or humor you find within these pages is embodied in her shimmering prose, distilled to the bone. I found myself reading passages out loud to friends, passages I thought were hallucinatory and funny, only to find myself choking back real tears." Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
In raw and beautiful prose, debut novelist Mun delivers the story of a young woman who is at once tough and vulnerable, world-weary and naive, faced with insurmountable odds and yet fiercely determined to survive. In the process, Mun creates one of the most indelible characters in recent fiction.
About the Author
Nami Mun was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up there and in the Bronx, New York. She has worked as a door-to-door Avon Lady, a dance hostess, a street vendor, a photojournalist, a bartender, and a criminal investigator. A graduate of University of California at Berkeley, she received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she garnered a Hopwood Award for fiction and the Farrar Prize. She has received a Pushcart Prize, as well as scholarships and residencies from the Corporation of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. Her stories have been published in the 2007 Pushcart Prize anthology, The Iowa Review, Tin House, Evergreen Review, Witness, and other journals.