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The (Future) Vista Cañas Library

The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir

(1 customer review)

Author: E. J. Koh

Length: 203 pages
Type: Non-Fiction, Physical Book
Genre: Memoir/Bio

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SKU: VC 24 Categories: , ,


“The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother’s absence. Her mother writes letters, in Korean, over the years seeking forgiveness and love–letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.”

“As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history–her grandmother Jun’s years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the horrors her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre–and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words–in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language–to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love? Eun Ji Koh fearlessly grapples with forgiveness, reconciliation, legacy, and intergenerational trauma, arriving at insights that are essential reading for anyone who has ever had to balance love, longing, heartbreak, and joy.”

“The Magical Language of Others weaves a profound tale of hard-won selfhood and our deep bonds to family, place, and language, introducing–in Eun Ji Koh–a singular, incandescent voice.”

1 review for The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir

  1. Janet Dore

    I’m sure I wouldn’t have found this book had I not won it in a Goodreads Giveaway. I’m thankful I did. As a mother, the story was particularly touching to me—and a tiny bit close to home.

    When the author was 14 and living in California, her mother and father moved back to Korea for a higher paying job, leaving her with her not-yet-twenty year old brother. They would not return for seven years, leaving her to finish raising herself alone.

    Every other chapter is a letter (translated from Korean) from mom to daughter; the chapter that follows is about some pivotal time in the author’s life.

    It was a bit of a challenging read as it lacked a continuous flow, while at the same time moving quickly. Having a son who is a poet, I particularly liked the parts that gave insight into the soul of poets. My favorite line in the book, and one that will never leave me, was when the author’s mother tells her friends what her daughter does for a living—”My daughter teaches people to let go.” Now, I understand my son a little bit more.

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