- The title story in the collection, “Drifting House,” tells of two young brothers attempting to escape from North Korea to China. Why did Lee select that story as the title story? What does the title refer to?
When I first read it I wasn’t exactly sure. The story was a particularly good story. But now I kind of see having reflected and read the interview with her. For one the character in the story refers to himself as a drifting house for his younger sister because he bares her on his back. But also in the interview the author refers to drifting house as a way to describe the feeling of home in the heart of both refugees and immigrants. Where is your true home if you are living in America after growing up in Korea. Where is your true home if you were born in North Korea?
- What concerns and emotions unite the stories in this collection? If you had to describe the book to a friend in a sentence or two, what would you say?
There’s a lot of surrender. Surrender to what seems like the end of life or what actually is the end of life. People feeling like “nothing will ever change again. I am cursed.” But sometimes the stories are about discovering hope in that bleakness. Usually discovering something within themselves they’ve buried. Or something buried by someone they love.
If I had to pitch this book to a friend I would say. “Well written, very depressing, short story collection.”
- Certain characters appear in more than one story; identify these stories and characters. How do the narratives influence each other and alter your understanding of those characters? Why did the author choose to connect the stories in this way?
I didn’t realize these stories were directly connected at all until reading this question. One that I realize now is that “at the edge of the world” and “drifting house” are directly connected. Which much more explicitly establishes the history of mark’s parents. And specifically his father’s relationship with the supernatural and family.
- Drifting House focuses specifically on the Korean and Korean American experience. If this setting is foreign to you, does it make it harder to connect to the stories? If the setting is familiar to you, does Lee’s representation strike you as accurate?
It is foreign to me yet the characters don’t feel so removed from me that I can’t empathize with them. For one Krys wrote the book for an American and Korean audience. So the stories do explain a bit about the history of life in Korea. Also many of the characters are grappling with specifically Korean situations but experiencing emotions and pain that should be familiar to anyone.
- In “The Goose Father,” the narrator makes reference (see pp. 83 and 87) to the formalities of interpersonal relationships between older and younger Koreans, formalities that seem to restrict comfort and honesty. Do similar formalities exist in North America?
Not really. I do feel a certain kind of kinship with my peers that I don’t share with people or different generations. But that is not the only kind of kinship I am comfortable with. I feel it’s percectly normal for people to have friends from many different age groups as soon as you’re out of high school. This story was interesting because at the beginning I didn’t know anything about those age dynamics. But they became apparent throughout the story.
- The scars of war and deprivation mark the older characters and influence their behavior. Find two examples of this in the stories.
- Many of the stories are challenging, even disturbing, because of the various types of domestic violence exhibited and their casual acceptance by the characters. How did you respond to this?
- In “A Temporary Marriage,” Mrs. Shin says, “I prefer a world without men” (p. 3), a comment that could easily be echoed by other women in the book. Which of the stories best illustrates the limitations and frustrations of being female in Korean culture? Do you believe that similar issues challenge American women?
- How has this collection of stories altered your perceptions of Korean culture specifically and immigrants in general? Was there one particular character whose experience struck a chord with you?
- Thinking of your own racial, religious, or cultural history, what similarities can you find with the characters in the stories? What have you overcome and what do you value? What has been troubling to you and what makes you proud?