Literary Hub – In a Q&A with Julia Kovalenko, Lee, the acclaimed author of Pachinko and Free Food for Millionaires, talks about her next novel, American Hagwon. She also discusses her role as a writing teacher, the importance of advocacy and encouragement to writers, and the global privileges that come with being fluent in English.
“I didn’t think that I would love my students as much as I do,” says Lee, who taught introductory fiction- and nonfiction-writing courses at Amherst last semester. “Your inner writer needs an advocate. And a teacher can be the advocate for that inner writer who is anxious, worried, or has doubts.”
Lee, a Korean immigrant who grew up in New York City, and Kovalenko, an American-born daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, talk about multilingualism, the English-teaching industry in South Korea, translation during wartime and writing as a way to address issues of social justice. “[A] part of me believes that somehow what I do, my little story, my little essay, my little book, could be my testament against the things that I think are unfair,” Lee says. “That keeps me going.”