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Native Speaker (1995)

by Chang-Rae Lee

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1921911,491 (3.73)33
Korean-American Henry Park is a "surreptitious, B+ student of life, illegal alien, emotional alien, yellow peril: neo-American, stranger, follower, traitor, spy ..." or so says his wife, in the list she writes upon leaving him. Henry is forever uncertain of his place, a perpetual outsider looking at American culture from a distance. As a man of two worlds, he is beginning to fear that he has betrayed both -- and belongs to neither.… (more)

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» See also 33 mentions

English (18)  Dutch (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I have very complicated feelings about this. On the one hand, there were a lot of things about this that really interested me and that I really enjoyed. On the other hand, this was such a slog to get through and I never wanted to pick it back up whenever I put it down - hence it taking me three weeks to finish this. ( )
  j_tuffi | May 30, 2020 |

There is a lot to like here.

Deeply reflective, thoughtful, informative and well written. Not so much a page turner as something to sink into and enjoy. Technically it's a spy novel, but that's mostly just setting. The focus is largely on language, politics, identity and the experience of immigrants into the U.S..

( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
A challenging, poignant novel about the impossibility of knowing ourselves and others. Upends conventional narratives about the immigrant experience and assimilation in the United States. The narrator, a second-generation Korean American named Henry Park, works as a undercover agent for a corporate espionage agency, and is assigned to shadow a New York politican named John Kwang. His work with Kwang is in the tradition of Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, as the layers of idealism he associates with the politician slowly fall away over the course of the novel. A parallel narrative follows Henry's slow reconciliation with his wife Lelia, from whom he was estranged after the accidental death of their son. So many layers here. I really loved re-reading this, and the graduate students I taught it too were on fire with ideas. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 19, 2020 |
identities collide ( )
  alyssajp | Jul 29, 2019 |
I didn't particularly like this novel.

I was required to read it for my Asian American Literature class. We had some every interesting class discussions, talking about the use of language and the fact that Hnery uses language almost as a barrier.

If you are interested in a (fake) autobiographical novel about a civilian spy, then you might like it. But it's not my kind of book. ( )
  Serenova_Phoenix | Jun 26, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)

In ‘Moedertaal’, Chang-Rae Lee’s meesterlijke debuut uit 1996, beschrijft de auteur de aarzelende pas van de eerste-generatiemigrant die door de straten van New York schuifelt. Bespiegelingen over taal als verraderlijk mijnenveld en de versnipperde identiteit van de nieuwkomer leidden bij Lee niet tot dorheid, wel tot bevreemding. Bovenal was ‘Moedertaal’ een hartverscheurend liefdesverhaal en een spannende detective die Lee grote prijzen als de American Book Award opleverde. Lee, die samen met zijn ouders op driejarige leeftijd vanuit Seoul naar New York verhuisde, laat zijn personages graag toekijken vanaf de zijlijn. Het zijn buitenstaanders die zich niet kunnen of willen werpen in de modder en het gewoel. Soms, zoals in ‘Een leven van gebaren’, verdringen ze hun gedachten aan een tijd waarin ze niet anders konden dan deelnemen, in dit geval aan een leven in oorlogstijd.
 
Maar als hij de opdracht krijgt om te infiltreren in de organisatie van de opkomende Koreaans-Amerikaanse politicus John Kwang, raakt hij verstrikt in een identiteitscrisis met verstrekkende gevolgen.

In dit debuut zijn alle thema's, die in zijn tweede roman zo harmonieus samenkomen al volop aanwezig: het zoeken naar een identiteit tussen twee culturen, de kracht van het verleden en de centrale rol van de taal als voertuig van een cultuur. De bespiegelingen die Lee daaraan wijdt, zijn op zich interessant genoeg, maar komen niet helemaal uit de verf omdat ze ingekaderd zijn in een spionageverhaal dat maar niet van de grond wil komen. Dat weerhield enkele toonaangevende literaire bladen er overigens niet van hem naar aanleiding van dit debuut uit te roepen tot een van de veelbelovendste jonge Amerikaanse schrijvers
 
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The day my wife left me she gave me a list of who I was.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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