Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that person.
In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul lives Kim Jiyoung. A thirtysomething-year-old "millennial everywoman," she has recently left her white-collar desk job--in order to care for her newborn daughter full-time--as so many Korean women are expected to do. But she quickly begins to exhibit strange symptoms that alarm her husband, parents, and in-laws: Jiyoung impersonates the voices of other women--alive and even dead, both known and unknown to her. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, her discomfited husband sends her to a male psychiatrist.
In a chilling, eerily truncated third-person voice, Jiyoung's entire life is recounted to the psychiatrist--a narrative infused with disparate elements of frustration, perseverance, and submission. Born in 1982 and given the most common name for Korean baby girls, Jiyoung quickly becomes the unfavored sister to her princeling little brother. Always, her behavior is policed by the male figures around her--from the elementary school teachers who enforce strict uniforms for girls, to the coworkers who install a hidden camera in the women's restroom and post their photos online. In her father's eyes, it is Jiyoung's fault that men harass her late at night; in her husband's eyes, it is Jiyoung's duty to forsake her career to take care of him and their child--to put them first.
Jiyoung's painfully common life is juxtaposed against a backdrop of an advancing Korea, as it abandons "family planning" birth control policies and passes new legislation against gender discrimination. But can her doctor flawlessly, completely cure her, or even discover what truly ails her?
Rendered in minimalist yet lacerating prose, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 sits at the center of our global #MeToo movement and announces the arrival of writer of international significance.
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About the Author
This is a book about the life of a woman living in Korea; the despair of an ordinary woman, which she takes for granted. The fact that it's not about 'someone special' is extremely shocking, while also being incredibly relatable.--Sayaka Murata, author of Convenience Store Woman, in Yomiuri Shimbun
I loved this novel. Kim Jiyoung's life is made to seem at once totally commonplace and nightmarishly over-the-top. As you read, you constantly feel that revolutionary, electric shift between commonplace and nightmarish. This kind of imaginative work is so important and so powerful.--Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot
The book's strength lies in how succinctly Cho captures the relentless buildup of sexism and gender discrimination over the course of one woman's life. . . The story perfectly captures misogynies large and small that will be recognizable to many.
[A] spirited debut . . . [T]he brutal, bleak conclusion demonstrates Cho's mastery of irony. This will stir readers to consider the myriad factors that diminish women's rights throughout the world.
In this fine--and beautifully translated--biography of a fictional Korean woman we encounter the real experiences of many women around the world.--Claire Kohda Hazelton, The Spectator
Cho deploys a formal, almost clinical prose style that subtly but effectively reinforces the challenges Korean women like Jiyoung endure throughout their lives in multiple contexts--familial, educational, and work-related. . . . Kim Jiyoung effectively communicates the realities Korean women face, especially discrimination in the workplace, rampant sexual harassment, and the nearly impossible challenge of balancing motherhood with career aspirations.--Faye Chadwell, Library Journal
Cho Nam-Joo points to a universal dialogue around discrimination, hopelessness, and fear.--Annabel Gutterman, TIME
Following the life of the titular character from her mother's generation through her own childhood, young adulthood, career, marriage and eventual 'breakdown, ' the book moves around in time to subtly uncover how patriarchy eats away at the psyches and bodies of women, starting before they're even born.--Sarah Neilson, Seattle Times