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The Calligrapher's Daughter

“My parents’ stories seemed to carry an urgency meant to instill a Korean identity that was seeping from us with each new American word learned, each Korean word lost.” – Eugenia Kim

Winner of the 2009 Borders Original Voices Award

A Best Historical Novel of 2009, The Washington Post

Shortlisted for the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in Fiction

The Calligrapher's Daughter

“My parents’ stories seemed to carry an urgency meant to instill a Korean identity that was seeping from us with each new American word learned, each Korean word lost.” – Eugenia Kim

Winner of the 2009 Borders Original Voices Award

A Best Historical Novel of 2009, The Washington Post

Shortlisted for the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in Fiction

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Order in the UK via Bloomsbury

Hardback and ebook available. Bloomsbury is a leading independent publishing house established in 1986. It has companies in London, Oxford, New York, Sydney and Delhi.

“This debut novel…is a beautiful, deliberate and satisfying story spanning 30 years of Korean history.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review

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In early-twentieth-century Korea, Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny ...

A sweeping debut novel, inspired by the life of the author’s mother, about a young woman who dares to fight for a brighter future in occupied Korea

Smart and headstrong, she is encouraged by her mother—but her stern father is determined to maintain tradition, especially as the Japanese steadily gain control of his beloved country. When he seeks to marry Najin into an aristocratic family, her mother defies generations of obedient wives and instead sends her to serve in the king’s court as a companion to a young princess. But the king is soon assassinated, and the centuries-old dynastic culture comes to its end. 

In the shadow of the dying monarchy, Najin begins a journey through increasing oppression that will forever change her world. As she desperately seeks to continue her education, will the unexpected love she finds along the way be enough to sustain her through the violence and subjugation her country continues to face? Spanning thirty years, The Calligrapher’s Daughteris a richly drawn novel in the tradition of Lisa See and Amy Tan about a country torn between ancient customs and modern possibilities, a family ultimately united by love, and a woman who never gives up her search for freedom.

An Interview with Eugenia Kim

The Calligrapher’s Daughter was your first novel. Why this story and this subject?

“I discovered there were very few books in English about Korean life during the Japanese occupation and even fewer from a woman’s point of view. With Asia’s long tradition of suppressing the female voice, this vacuum felt more like a silence than an oversight, intriguing me further …”

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eugenia kim author

An Interview with Eugenia Kim

The Calligrapher’s Daughter was your first novel. Why this story and this subject?

“I discovered there were very few books in English about Korean life during the Japanese occupation and even fewer from a woman’s point of view. With Asia’s long tradition of suppressing the femFFale voice, this vacuum felt more like a silence than an oversight, intriguing me further …”

Read more

Praise for The Calligrapher's Daughter

  • Winner of the 2009 Borders Original Voices Award
  • A Best Historical Novel of 2009, The Washington Post
  • Shortlisted for the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in Fiction
  • Borders Original Voices Selection
  • The Washington Post Critic’s Pick
  • Publishers Weekly First Fiction Pick for Fall
  • Vogue.com Summer Best Beach Reads Pick
  • The Denver Post “Hitting the Shelves” Editor’s Choice
  • National Geographic Traveler “New Books that Transport Us”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This debut novel…is a beautiful, deliberate and satisfying story spanning 30 years of Korean history.”

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Booklist

“Kim opens a window into a vanished world in this sensitively rendered homage to her mother’s life…[an] achingly beautiful tribute to female perseverance and survival.”

Sybil Steinberg, Washington Post

“Eugenia Kim’s sensitive first novel, which depicts 30 years of Korea’s modern history in light of its ancient past, is an illuminating prequel to present-day events. . . . Kim recounts a poignant family history, much of it based on her own mother’s life. . . . The narrative is keenly and often lyrically observed. . . . A satisfying excursion into empathetically rendered lives.”

Geeta Sharma Jensen, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“Eugenia Kim’s sweeping debut. . . rises tall from a riveting scene that begs to be read and re-read—as does her entire novel about the painful change that Japanese occupation and modern ways bring to traditional, ritualistic Korea. . . . Kim’s prose is elegant, her eye compassionate, and her ability to effortlessly compress events over 30 years into a moving novel is admirable. But her greatest triumphs are her carefully calibrated and brave characters, who haunt you long after the novel is done.”

Anne Morris, Dallas Morning News

“Gripping. . . . Eugenia Kim’s debut novel feels particularly fresh . . . The Calligrapher’s Daughter draws the reader’s attention through well-developed characters. . . . Kim creates a strong, sweet bond between mother and daughter that is maintained throughout the novel.”

“In this rich debut, drawn from Kim’s family history in Korea, a headstrong girl resists tradition, her father, and an arranged marriage to live her own life.” —Good Housekeeping

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Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor

“Fans of Lisa See’s or Amy Tan’s novels should eagerly embrace Najin, and The Calligrapher’s Daughter bids fair to become a staple of book clubs. While the story is Najin’s, its true subject is Korea’s occupation by Japan.”

Marsha Dubrow, Examiner.com

“Fascinating. . . . Kim based the novel on her mother and grandmother, paying moving homage to both, plus extensive research into Korean history, which is engrossing.”