MixedLos Angeles Review of Books... if the genre of postcolonial travel writing denotes oppressed subjects reclaiming lands taken from them, Lee humorously pushes My Year Abroad into post-postcolonial territory, where the white male gaze stares up at the historically oppressed subject—in this case quite literally from the subaltern. However, Tiller’s racial self-consciousness never leads to revelation or behavioral change, and so the novel continues to drag him through its increasingly Hollywood-esque screenplay ... My Year Abroad’s problem is not its lack of believability but its incessancy, which comes at the cost of the reader’s emotional attachment to the characters ... Lee fails to capture the voice of a 20-year-old narrator ... These weaknesses of My Year Abroad prove not only disappointing when placed next to its skilled manipulation of genre, but also when contemplating the possibility that a hysterical realist style (albeit a slightly more tempered one) could best capture the absurdities of a rapidly changing East and Southeast Asia ... in these rare moments of quiet introspection, when Tiller takes the time to process his time in Asia, that My Year Abroad is at its most poignant. If only the novel allowed Tiller more of this room, perhaps the reader would become more invested in the machinery of its plot, and the \'endless echoes\' of his frenetic life could be felt, rather than glazed over.
Don Mee Choi
RaveThe Los Angeles Review[Choi\'s] her poetic work lies not in just presenting silenced voices, but reworking and amplifying them, which intensifies the absurdity of their suffering ... hinges on an active participation of the reader, who must pick up the fragments left after the partition of Korea and make meaning out of it ... Choi’s fictionalized accounts prove more intimate than if she had gone back in time and interviewed the children herself ... She does not pretend to own these voices, does not feign a Whitmanian, \'I contain multitudes,\' but instead lets language breathe and cohere on its own ... wrestles with being a witness to oppression while not experiencing it directly, with creating art while borrowing the art of others. There is a hopefulness to her poetry, one that includes the possibility of transcendence and flight, but it is grounded in a deeply macabre reality ... Choi’s integration of her father’s photographs makes her \'postmemory han\' legible and permanent. The photos sustain a cohesion to Choi’s familial memory while highlighting the fact that her family had been separated across the world due to her father’s exposure of government atrocities. The photos reverberate off each other, linking adolescent Choi with mass movements, her poetic eye with the photographic eye, visualizing the \'collective consciousness\' her language arises from. The ending words of DMZ Colony utilize a first-person plural, both bringing power to collective language and recognizing its limitations as a form of resistance:
PositiveThe RumpusAlthough these epiphanies are often cryptic and abstract, they provide glimpses into Chang’s own process of reckoning with the onslaught of deaths that occur concurrently with the death of her mother. Each obituary also pushes the reader further and further into Chang’s poetic grief, though we’re given an occasional moment to catch our breath with the sporadic insertion of a tanka ... These interruptions often dwell on Chang’s children, offering both her and the reader the potential of life amidst the assurance of death ... Obit’s most trenchant moments arise out of this realization that \'all you have left is tone,\' and for Chang, the tone is often raw anger ... what lingers are glimpses of hope, of Chang’s dry and piercing humor. Left in my mind are the fleeting \'framed photos\' of care that Chang distills, small moments ... they capture the tone of these obituaries, where grief is tended to and given space.