Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel
A New York Times Editors Choice Selection
A global sensation, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 “has become...a touchstone for a conversation around feminism and gender” (Sarah Shin, Guardian).
One of the most notable novels of the year, hailed by both critics and K-pop stars alike, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 follows one woman’s psychic deterioration in the face of rampant misogyny. In a tidy apartment on the outskirts of Seoul, millennial “everywoman” Kim Jiyoung spends her days caring for her infant daughter. But strange symptoms appear: Jiyoung begins to impersonate the voices of other women, dead and alive. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, her concerned husband sends her to a psychiatrist. Jiyoung narrates her story to this doctor—from her birth to parents who expected a son to elementary school teachers who policed girls’ outfits to male coworkers who installed hidden cameras in women’s restrooms. But can her psychiatrist cure her, or even discover what truly ails her? “A social treatise as well as a work of art” (Alexandra Alter, New York Times), Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 heralds the arrival of international powerhouse Cho Nam-Joo.
Praise for Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel
Cho’s clinical prose is bolstered with figures and footnotes to illustrate how ordinary Jiyoung’s experience is.... When Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, was published in Korea in 2016, it was received as a cultural call to arms.... Like Bong Joon Ho’s Academy Award-winning film Parasite, which unleashed a debate about class disparities in South Korea, Cho’s novel was treated as a social treatise as much as a work of art.... The new, often subversive novels by Korean women, which have intersected with the rise of the #MeToo movement, are driving discussions beyond the literary world.
— Alexandra Alter - New York Times
[Kim Jiyoung] laid bare my own Korean childhood — and, let’s face it, my Western adulthood too — forcing me to confront traumatic experiences that I’d tried to chalk up as nothing out of the ordinary. But then, my experiences are ordinary, as ordinary as the everyday horrors suffered by the book’s protagonist, Jiyoung. This novel is about the banality of the evil that is systemic misogyny. . . . Jiyoung, like Gregor Samsa, feels so overwhelmed by social expectations that there is no room for her in her own body; her only option is to become something — or someone — else.
— Euny Hong - New York Times Book Review
Cho Nam-joo’s third novel has been hailed as giving voice to the unheard everywoman. . . . [Kim Jiyoung] has become both a touchstone for a conversation around feminism and gender and a lightning rod for anti-feminists who view the book as inciting misandry . . . [The book] has touched a nerve globally . . . The character of Kim Jiyoung can be seen as a sort of sacrifice: a protagonist who is broken in order to open up a channel for collective rage. Along with other socially critical narratives to come out of Korea, such as Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite, her story could change the bigger one.
— Sarah Shin, The Guardian
Cho Nam-Joo points to a universal dialogue around discrimination, hopelessness, and fear.
— Annabel Gutterman, TIME
In this fine—and beautifully translated—biography of a fictional Korean woman we encounter the real experiences of many women around the world.
— Claire Kohda Hazelton, The Spectator
Cho deploys a formal, almost clinical prose style that subtly but effectively reinforces the challenges Korean women like Jiyoung endure throughout their lives in multiple contexts—familial, educational, and work-related. . . . Kim Jiyoung effectively communicates the realities Korean women face, especially discrimination in the workplace, rampant sexual harassment, and the nearly impossible challenge of balancing motherhood with career aspirations.
— Faye Chadwell, Library Journal
Following the life of the titular character from her mother’s generation through her own childhood, young adulthood, career, marriage and eventual 'breakdown,' the book moves around in time to subtly uncover how patriarchy eats away at the psyches and bodies of women, starting before they’re even born.
— Sarah Neilson, Seattle Times
— Rebecca Deczynski - Domino
Already an international best-seller, television scriptwriter Cho’s debut novel has been credited with helping to ‘launch Korea’s new feminist movement.’ The fact that gender inequity is insidiously pervasive throughout the world will guarantee that this tale has immediate resonance, and its smoothly accessible, albeit British English vernacular–inclined, translation by award-winning translator Chang will ensure appreciative Anglophone audiences. Cho’s narrative is part bildungsroman and part Wikipedia entry (complete with statistics-heavy footnotes).... Cho’s matter-of-fact delivery underscores the pervasive gender imbalance, while just containing the empathic rage. Her final chapter, “2016,” written as Jiyoung’s therapist’s report—his claims of being “aware” and “enlightened” only damning him further as an entitled troll—proves to be narrative genius.
— Terry Hong, Booklist [starred review]
The book’s strength lies in how succinctly Cho captures the relentless buildup of sexism and gender discrimination over the course of one woman’s life. . . The story perfectly captures misogynies large and small that will be recognizable to many.
— Kirkus Reviews
[A] spirited debut . . . [T]he brutal, bleak conclusion demonstrates Cho’s mastery of irony. This will stir readers to consider the myriad factors that diminish women’s rights throughout the world.
— Publishers Weekly
Written with unbearably clear-sighted perspective, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 possesses the urgency and immediacy of the scariest horror thriller—except that this is not technically horror, but something closer to reportage. I broke out in a sweat reading this book.
— Ling Ma, author of Severance
I loved this novel. Kim Jiyoung’s life is made to seem at once totally commonplace and nightmarishly over-the-top. As you read, you constantly feel that revolutionary, electric shift between commonplace and nightmarish. This kind of imaginative work is so important and so powerful.
— Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot
This is a book about the life of a woman living in Korea; the despair of an ordinary woman, which she takes for granted. The fact that it’s not about ‘someone special’ is extremely shocking, while also being incredibly relatable.
— Sayaka Murata, author of Convenience Store Woman, in Yomiuri Shimbun