Summaries and reviews of fiction and nonfiction books by Korean American authors,
books about Korean Americans and Korea, and Korean literature in English translation,
including some academic works and a sampling on the Korean War
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
My Korean Deli, by Ben Ryder Howe
Ben, a self-proclaimed WASP, and Gab, his Korean American wife, live in the basement of her family’s house, Korean-style, as the young couple saves money to move into their own home. But for the mother's sake (a motivation and decision that felt somewhat glossed over)—ostensibly to give her work, the family pools their savings and buys a deli in Brooklyn. Ben is a senior editor at The Paris Review, and his days of dichotomy dealing with literature versus running a corner store provide the impetus for this memoir. The demands of his boss, the late George Plimpton, and the demands of a deli and a feisty mother-in-law spur Ben to consider and contrast his Puritan background and upbringing with the Korean immigrant culture of this family. Written with humor and contemporary wit, the story is filled with fascinating characters (store regulars, family members, and coworkers on both sides of the cultural divide), and reveals the interesting underside of merchandising a New York deli. Sometimes the material seemed like anecdotes more than story, but they add to a whole that explains one young man's journey of self discovery.