Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to spoke to If You Leave Me author Crystal Hanah Kim
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Crystal Hana Kim: I’m cheating already, but a short story comes to mind… “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury. I was obsessed with Margot as a child.
BM: Favorite re-read?
CHK: I’ve turned to The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje a few times in my life. I first read it in college and was immediately drawn to Hana and her grief. (We also share the same name, so perhaps that had something to do with it on a subconscious level.) I will never watch the movie though; that would ruin all the distinct images in my mind.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
CHK: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. But really, any Toni book could be listed here.
BM: Last book you read?
CHK: The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung. I highly recommend it!
BM: A book that made you cry?
CHK: I cry easily in life, but not as often when reading fiction. Whenever I do cry because of book, it seems to happens in public. I read Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong on a plane and wept at the end. In terms of nonfiction, Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know brought me to tears multiple times while riding the subway.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
CHK: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. It’s the book I’ve discussed most with both writers and non-writers this past year, and it’s fascinating hearing how others consider the structure and story. I want everyone I know to read it so I can hear their thoughts.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
CHK: I don’t remember. I need to read funnier books.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
CHK: The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair and Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. For fiction, I base my gift on the receiver’s literary tastes.
BM: Classic book you hate?
CHK: Perhaps this is more of a modern classic, but A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
CHK: Anna Karenina.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
CHK: I’m trying to read Danielle Lazarin’s short story collection Back Talk in Korean (which I’ve already read in English), and it’s very pleasurable but also going quite slowly. Next up is The House of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland, forthcoming in 2020. Then, I think I’ll read Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go for the first time.
BM: Favorite children’s book?
CHK: Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to dye my hair red and move to PEI. I actually did dye my hair red as a teenager and it was a complete disaster.
Crystal Hana Kim’s debut novel If You Leave Me was named a best book of 2018 by multiple outlets, including The Washington Post, Booklist, Literary Hub, and Nylon. Kim was a 2017 PEN America Dau Short Story Prize winner and has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Hedgebrook, and Jentel, among others. Her work has been published in Elle Magazine, The Paris Review, Guernica and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor at Apogee Journal.
Crystal Hana Kim’s If You Leave Me is out now in paperback from William Morrow