When EJ Koh was 15 years old, she and her brother were left in the United States when Koh's father took a job in South Korea and her mom went with him. The parents moved Koh and her 19-year old brother into a small house in Davis, California, where they more or less raised each other. Though her parents were physically absent, her mother asserted her presence in the form of two-page letters, which she sent to Koh every week. The letters are the heartbeat of Koh's memoir The Magical Language of Others, pulsing between chapters that reveal other details of Koh's life. Like any good poet, Koh uses up everything—every image returns, and every idea chimes with another, so that the book's short 200 pages contain the emotional and philosophical heft of a doorstop.
by Rich Smith
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