E. J. Koh’s debut novel, The Liberators is her follow-up to the stunning memoir, The Magical Language of Others. I was so excited to read the novel; I started as soon as I got the galley, and couldn’t put it down. The story covers decades and contents, and follows one family as its members try to figure out what it means to choose a lover, a life, a home. The relationships between the characters are so lovingly and beautifully rendered — the way they braid together, despite themselves; the small hurts that build over time; and their surprise at finding comfort and relief in another’s presence. E. J. Koh is an incredible talent. I already can’t wait for her next book. Recommended By Kelsey F., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
At the height of the military dictatorship in South Korea, Insuk and Sungho are arranged to be married. The couple soon moves to San Jose, California, with an infant and Sungho's overbearing mother-in-law. Adrift in a new country, Insuk grieves the loss of her past and her divided homeland, finding herself drawn into an illicit relationship that sets into motion a dramatic saga and echoes for generations to come.
From the Gwangju Massacre to the 1988 Olympics, flashbacks to Korean repatriation after Japanese surrender, and the Sewol ferry accident, E. J. Koh's exquisitely drawn portraits and symphonic testimony from guards, prisoners, perpetrators, and liberators spans continents and four generations of two Korean families forever changed by fateful past decisions made in love and war. Extraordinarily beautiful and deeply moving, The Liberators is an elegantly wrought family saga of memory, trauma, and empathy, and a stunning testament to the consequences and fortunes of inheritance.
“Koh produces another Intricately accomplished, intimate melding of history and storytelling.” Booklist
“A soaring multigenerational saga about learning to accept the past without letting it overshadow the future.” Foreward (Starred Review)
“The Liberators is a poetic breath, the language as haunting and epic as its story of a divided country's legacy and impact on the Korean diaspora. I'll read anything that E. J. Koh writes.” Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean
About the Author
E. J. Koh is the author of The Magical Language of Others, which won a Washington State Book Award, Pacific Northwest Book Award, and Association for Asian American Studies Book Award, and was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. Koh is also the author of the poetry collection A Lesser Love, a Pleiades Press Editors Prize for Poetry winner. Koh's work has appeared in AGNI, the Atlantic, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Poetry, Slate, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. Koh earned her MFA at Columbia University and her PhD at the University of Washington, and has received National Endowment for the Arts and MacDowell fellowships. She lives in Seattle, Washington.