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Min Jin Lee Reads from 'Free Food for Millionaires'

by Linda Kulman
Jul 24, 2007

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Linda Kulman

Book Tour is a new Web feature and podcast. Each week we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

Min Jin Lee's debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, is a lush coming-of-age tale that's filtered through the immigrant experiences of two generations of Korean Americans. Casey Han is Lee's richly drawn central character, a fashion-conscious young woman with an Ivy-League degree, a strong sense of entitlement, and "an enviable golf handicap." But Han possesses neither the social status nor the wealth to attain the glamorous life she so craves.

Educated at Yale and Georgetown, Lee is a prize-winning writer who worked as a lawyer for several years in New York before turning to fiction full time. Her previous work has been anthologized in various collections and featured on podcast/podcast_detail.php?siteId=9911210">NPR's Selected Shorts.

Critics have hailed Free Food for Millionaires as "ambitious" and compared it favorably to Philip Roth's Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint, though it took the author 12 years to publish her first book. Her first full-length work of fiction was widely rejected by publishers and she didn't complete her next two attempts. She says the experience led her to take chances.

"There are a lot of things in here that if you were a first-time novelist, you probably wouldn't put in because you're afraid they're going to think, 'Oh this is you.'"

Although Lee's life resembles Casey's in many ways, she says it's not an autobiography per se.

"A novel, especially a first novel, is... really an emotional autobiography. All these emotions I'm embarrassed at having had, I've written about."

This reading of Free Food for Millionaires took place in July of 2007 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

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Recorded at Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C.

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