Rice Girls

Rice Girls by Emily Kim

A tale of two Korean sisters over thirty years period, and their search for reconciliation and forgiveness. The older sister, who tries to turn her trauma into art, and the younger sister, who tries to make up their painful past and find her new home in a foreign land.

Sally Lee Grant is a below-the-radar Asian American actress in Los Angeles who lives day-to-day with her fiancé Jason Deluca, a struggling screenwriter. Sally toils at a bikini strip bar as a waitress to support Jason. Sally’s life spirals out of control when one day Jinhee Lee, her long lost younger sister from Korea from whom she was separated 16 years before shows up on her doorstep. This sudden shock forces her to confront her dark past as her reality gradually unravels in the coming months.

Jason is surprised to learn Sally was formerly “Mehee Lee” in Busan, a South Korean port city. She grew up on the outskirts of an U.S. army camptown during the post-Vietnam era. Sally swears to shield Jinhee from their deprived childhood, but eventually takes refuge in a fantasy world – disco, American pop culture, and Hollywood movies. Her only hope of escape comes from American solider George Grant and two bar girls. When her father’s addictions take a fatal turn, Sally makes the ultimate sacrifice by leaving Korea and her family behind at the age of ten.

Now pushing 30, Sally’s overdue promise with Jinhee is about to become reality… but not in the way she hoped. Sally has to find a way to balance the foibles of the Hollywood dream, her self-absorbed fiancé, and the heavy burden of Korean guilt.

Author: Emily A. Kim

Amazon | Goodreads

Rating: 3.5/5

Thank you to the author, Emily Kim, for providing me with a copy of this book so that I could review it!

Rice Girls was a really unique (for me) and engaging story, once I fell into the rhythm of the writing style. It’s very different from books I’m used to reading; it’s actually a lot more like storytelling than anything else. Almost like Emily is telling me the story out loud.

For that reason, when I first started reading, everything felt very abrupt and shallow. I was looking for more description, more detail, longer conversation exchanges. But I’m actually glad that I didn’t find it; once I got a few chapters in, I realized that the storytelling style really complemented the authentic feeling of the book. It felt almost cultural. For that reason alone, I recommend that you read it!

There were some topics and moments that felt pretty uncomfortable, but I think that was a product of the story being set at the turn of the century; society’s attitudes toward women, LGBTQ+ people, and racism were very different at that time. 

All in all, I’m really glad I read this one. Thanks again, Emily!

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