Writer of Color: Min Jin Lee

Photo of POC writer Min Jin Lee from Literary Hub

Quick Facts on POC Writer Min Jin Lee

  • Born 1968 in Seoul, South Korea
  • Grew up in Queens, New York
  • Worked as a corporate lawyer before writing fiction

Biography on POC Writer Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee was born in 1968 in Seoul, South Korea. She and her family relocated to Queens, New York when she was eleven years old. She graduated from Yale College with a degree in history, and later studied law at Georgetown University.

Since adolescence, Lee battled a serious liver condition, which made her prone to illnesses. After two years of working as a lawyer, she quit. From there, she designed her own MFA program, attending readings and workshops in New York, including the famed 92nd St. and Y.

While other writers have achieved instant success with their debut novels, it wasn’t exactly the case for Lee. She had written several novels before her debut with Free Food for Millionaires.

Read about her writing journey in her interview with Bloom.

Or a little more here.

Lee not only writes, but also delivers lectures about writing and politics at several distinguished universities, writes reviews, essays and short stories.


Super Fact: She is one of very few Korean American novelists.

 Before You Read POC Writer Min Jin Lee

South Korea

South Korea is a peninsula northwest of Japan and east of China. Geographically, it shares the landmass with North Korea, which shares a border with China.

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From 1910, the entire nation of Korea was under Japanese rule. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan after the bombing of Nagasaki. As a result, the Axis and Allied powers split the nation in half. While the US got the southern half, the Soviet Union received the northern half. The arrangement was meant to be temporary, but the US and Soviets could not agree on a single method of governing the divided nation.

In 1948, North Korea adopted the Communist method to government while South Korea aligned with US. Neither Koreas accepted the division as permanent. By June 25, 1950, the Korean War broke out, each side fighting for their way of governing. Three years later at a stalemate, North Korea and South Korea returned to their divided state.

While North Korea remains as a staunch communist party, South Korea has experienced both autocratic and democratic rule. It took six distinct periods of national leadership to find the type of democracy South Korea has today.

Super Fact: Since the last installment of democratic governing in 1987, called the Sixth Republic, South Korea has had seven presidents.


Quotes from POC Writer Min Jin Lee


“I was told many times that my writing was either too Korean or not Korean enough.”

Those who give up cannot gain victory. It’s not victory that is so important, but the fighting spirit. Even if you fail, I think even just the attitude of not giving up is beautiful in itself.”

“A part of me felt hurt for a very long time that Koreans didn’t embrace this book as much as, let’s say, New Zealand. A part of me feels really sad because I spent my life writing about ethnic Koreans around the world and I really do love Korean people.”

“As a woman of colour, as a person who is a minority, I believe its important that other people know about my language and I don’t necessarily have to explain. In the same way, when I read 19th-century literature and if I have to understand a Latin phrase or a French phrase, it is incumbent upon me to learn it. I think we are global citizens, we are people of conscience and we have to learn more about each other. I can assert my space in the world as equally as other Western writers.”

“I admire Koreans and what Koreans have withstood as a people, and it is a culture of 5,000 years plus. I studied American history in college, and I love being an American, and I am proud to be an American, especially now, because I see the resistance in this country and the ability for dialogue, and it strengthens me. I think my connectedness to Korea is not just historical … it is necessary to feel a greater sense of strength when I feel lost in this country.” 

Works by POC Writer Min Jin Lee

2007 Free Food For Millionaires

2017 Pachinko




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