You might’ve heard the name Min Jin Lee most recently from the enthusiasm surrounding her novel Pachinko, finalist for the National Book Award. Yet the title “writer” doesn’t quite capture the extent of her talent. Her hour-long Seattle Arts and Lectures talk on June 15, demonstrated that she is also an eloquent speaker, a vocal activist, a loving teacher, a passionate feminist, a proud Korean-American, and the brilliant author of Free Food For Millionaires, various short stories, and essays. Lee says that what interests her more than being a writer is having something meaningful to say, which explains the many roles that she takes on.
At the start of the virtual event, Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Bitanya Giday read her poem “Hyphenated Identity Crisis”. The poem echoes the intersectional identity struggles dealt with in Lee’s writing and in her own life. Lee spent the first half of her talk acknowledging the current civil unrest and pandemic in America. She also recounted her journey, as a Korean-American woman from working-class roots, that led her to the success she has today. In the second half of the talk, Lee entered a Q&A session with E.J. Koh, a fellow Korean-American writer and author of The Magical Language of Others and poetry collection A Lesser Love.