This collection of linked stories follows four generations of the Songs, a Korean American family, beginning in 1924 just prior to the Immigration Act and extending to near the end of the century. Linked stories, or stories that form a story cycle, are a common book-length form seen in Asian American literature that accommodates multiple perspectives across generations and locations. Through this story cycle, patterns emerge as cultural identity and individuality, often in tension with one another, shape choices and outcomes.
With these stories, Carol Roh Spaulding charts shifting definitions of “Americanness” across time through the arc of a family narrative. She also explores desire and belonging as articulated, in turns, by the mother, father, granddaughter, great-grandson, and even a ghost child who died after a tragic accident. But these linked stories center on the life experiences of Gracie Song. They follow her from girlhood to young motherhood, through her children’s teenage years, and finally to her elderly solitude, when to her great astonishment she finds romance with a younger man and reconciliation with an estranged daughter—both unexpected gifts of later life.
Waiting for Mr. Kim and Other Stories
, Carol Roh Spaulding’s uniquely linked collection of stories and one novella, follows three generations of the Song family, beginning with the family’s emigration from Korea to California shortly before the 1924 Immigration Act. Decade by decade, with shifting perspectives, Waiting for Mr. Kim
lays out what it means to be a daughter and what it means to be a mother, what it means to be an immigrant, what it means to be an Asian-American woman in this country. The reader first meets Grace—whose perspective threads through many of the stories—via her older sister, a ghost narrator who died tragically and whose death haunts these stories. In the novella that ends the collection, Grace is a grandmother caring for the son of her estranged daughter and is also an older woman embracing desire and love. Roh Spaulding’s prose is gorgeous and lyrical, at other times quiet and restrained, always beautifully precise. Waiting for Mr. Kim
is the collection that we have been waiting for, whether we knew it or not.
—Lori Ostlund, author of After the Parade
This is an absolutely lovely book—quietly affecting, crystalline stories that build in radiance and astonishing power. Waiting for Mr. Kim
is a wondrous achievement.
—Don Lee, author of Yellow and The Partition
Carol Roh Spaulding's stories draw you in so close you feel them fluttering at your core, where they haunt you and crack you open. With poetic prose clear as mountain water, each character offers brutally honest explorations of how the past steers your future. Whether shouldering the burdens of shifting cultures, lingering poverty, or offering clear-eyed truths of what it means to be a woman in the world with the pressure of conforming bearing down, each page shines with grit and grace. Not since reading Joan Silber’s Improvement
and Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Water Museum
, have I been ushered so completely over the invisible bridges between two countries. I’m left in awe of this wise and vital collection.
—Devin Murphy, author of The Boat Runner
In Carol Roh Spaulding’s amazing linked story collection, Waiting for Mr. Kim and Other Stories
, we find that rare gift—writing that gets just about everything done, and done very well. Every page not only delights and instructs but also provokes and moves us, lingering like a remembered dream. . . . Waiting
will quietly pull you in and knock you out.
—Joan Frank, San Francisco Chronicle
The scope of these stories is as immense as their renderings are masterful. More than a mere family saga, the collection testifies to the history of anti-Asian racism and immigration policy in the U.S. and to the powers of family, place, belonging, and identity.
—Jody Hobbs Hesler, Necessary Fiction