"Drifting House," by Krys Lee
Jeff Glor talks to Krys Lee about her new collection of stories, "Drifting House."
Jeff Glor: What surprised you the most during the writing process?
Krys Lee: You learn so much--too much--about yourself. I'm not an autobiographical writer in the sense that my stories aren't lifted directly from life. Most of the stories have very little of my actual life in them, but when I reread the collection, all my obsessions and concerns, the traces of my history, and all the personal and historical wounds are so transparent that it's exhilarating and terrifying. Publishing a book is like walking into a cocktail party wearing a bikini. Everyone else is armored in their black dresses and suits, but you're completely exposed.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
KL: I would be a human rights activist or a park ranger. Activists are some of the people I admire most because they act and sacrifice for what they believe in. There are activists working in the North Korean human rights movement who have sold their only house to bring more defectors to safety and many who have been jailed and tortured in China, merely for trying to protect a human being. I do my very small part in trying to live by my beliefs, but these people who risk so much for freedom and justice inspire me most.
In moments of frustration at urban life, I fantasize about being a park ranger. It's beautiful and humbling to camp in the wild and live to the rhythms of elk and moose. The vast landscapes of America remind me of how I'm one small individual in this universe, and I think that's healthy, particularly for anyone who is a public figure such as a politician or a celebrity.
JG: What else are you reading right now?
KL: I'm juggling a few books. In the evening before I go to bed, I'm reading Adam Johnson's "The Orphan Master's Son," a novel based in North Korea. He's a talented writer with a supple sentence and a great sense of rhythm. The research and care he's devoted to the novel is evident. I'm also reading "The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry." I started as a poet and return to reading poetry often, as there's a great deal for fiction writers to learn. In the morning, I begin the day with Wallace Stevens' "The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and Imagination." I'm almost finished with it, so soon my mornings will begin with a galley of "The Bellwether Revivals," a novel by a debut writer Benjamin Wood that will be out sometime in April.
JG: What's next for you?
KL: Next will hopefully be very soon, as I am in the middle of revising my novel. It's a novel about the dangerous journey North Koreans make from their country, through China, to a safe third country. The people who take advantage of and wield power over the refugees in their flight to safety also figure largely in the novel, as well as various characters from the West. I was originally motivated by anger as no country has been able to stand up to China, which has allowed all sorts of atrocities to happen to an unprotected group of people. This anger turned into a tenderness I felt for the main characters.
MORE VIDEO:Jeff Glor talks to Krys Lee - author of the short story collection, "Drifting House" - about her unique experience as part of a new wave of reverse immigration. Born in Seoul, South Korea, but raised in the U.S., Lee returned to the country of her heritage as an adult. Krys Lee - author of the short story collection, "Drifting House" - talks about the challenges of writing about her two worlds - Korea and the West Coast - and the differences in writing novels versus short stories.
For more on "Drifting House," visit the Penguin Group website.
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