Native Speaker

By Chang-Rae Lee,

Book cover of Native Speaker

Book description

The debut novel from critically-acclaimed and New York Times–bestselling author of On Such a Full Sea and My Year Abroad.

In Native Speaker, author Chang-rae Lee introduces readers to Henry Park. Park has spent his entire life trying to become a true American—a native speaker. But even as the essence…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Native Speaker as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I feel Chang-Rae Lee broke out of the mold of Asian American books that always dealt with immigration or stories set in Old Asia. A young man, Henry Park, is hired to infiltrate the campaign of a Korean American running for mayor in New York City. Yes, this delves into the issues of assimilation and alienation, but the novel is about so much more. It’s lyrical and poignant and universal in its explorations of familial and marital love. 

This novel was published a year after my college graduation, and even now, almost thirty years later, I can recall seeing the book at the neighborhood Waldenbooks. By this point I’d dreamed of becoming a writer myself, but who was I, a Korean-American kid, kidding? The only Asian-themed book I knew was The Good Earth, and it was written by Pearl S. Buck, who I assure you was not remotely Korean. So to have Native Speaker in print meant the world to me, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s also just a really engrossing book. With the self-doubting protagonist…

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