Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo – Book Review

Title: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 (review copy)

Author: Cho Nam-Joo

Genre/Themes: Literary Fiction, Translated Fiction, Patriarchy, Sexism, Misogyny, Unconscious Male Bias, Feminism

Blurb from Goodreads

Kim Jiyoung is a girl born to a mother whose in-laws wanted a boy.

Kim Jiyoung is a sister made to share a room while her brother gets one of his own.

Kim Jiyoung is a female preyed upon by male teachers at school. Kim Jiyoung is a daughter whose father blames her when she is harassed late at night.

Kim Jiyoung is a good student who doesn’t get put forward for internships. Kim Jiyoung is a model employee but gets overlooked for promotion. Kim Jiyoung is a wife who gives up her career and independence for a life of domesticity.

Kim Jiyoung has started acting strangely.

Kim Jiyoung is depressed.

Kim Jiyoung is mad.

Kim Jiyoung is her own woman.

Kim Jiyoung is every woman.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is the South Korean sensation that has got the whole world talking. The life story of one young woman born at the end of the twentieth century raises questions about endemic misogyny and institutional oppression that are relevant to us all.

My Review

The premise of this book is great. It’s vitally important too. I adore books that highlight ingrained sexism and the double standards that are forced upon women.

But this was so dry!

It felt I was being slapped over the head repeatedly with the issues. Which as I said great, but where was the feeling? The emotion? The book even used footnotes to back up the points on sexism it was making but instead of that adding a gravitas to the work it made it seem heavy handed. Simply too forced.

And the main character of Kim Jiyoung. I get that she’s written as an everywoman type character. That her story is the story of all women. But… I don’t know. I wanted more emotion I guess.

But then conversely the point of this novel is that women are forced to not be allowed to feel… Women are not allowed any freedoms…Women must only be one way. So I’m confused.

I understand that this novel has been a major breakout hit in Korea and it is hoped that this English translation will highlight the cultural sexism that according to this book is rampant in Korea. So I wholeheartedly applaud the book and its important message to once and for all demand true and not symbolic equality.

But as for a piece of moving literature, this for me doesn’t work. I needed the narrative to be more nuanced with a little more grey rather than the full on black or white style of the storyline.

An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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