Tell Us Something Good, E.J. Koh

The Magical Language of Others Author Recommends Her Favorite Local Spots
February 4, 2021
(Jenny Jimenez)

For the latest installment of our "Tell Us Something Good" celebrity recommendation series, we talked with poet and author E.J. Koh, whose memoir, The Magical Language of Others, just won the 2021 Pacific Northwest Book Award, and who Rich Smith profiled in 2019. She told us about some of her favorite spots in Seattle, writing love letters to strangers (want one? read on), and other things she's been doing lately. Here are her answers.


What are your favorite restaurants for takeout or outdoor dining right now?    

For a rare treat, I takeout the crispy, fried cauliflower with nori ranch dressing and the katsu plate with sweet, spice-filled katsu sauce from West Seattle’s newly opened Grillbird.

What are your favorite local businesses or shops, aside from restaurants?    

Family-owned bookstores Paper Boat Booksellers and Pegasus Book Exchange are regular stops in West Seattle. Nearby is the historic C & P Coffee Company. Over the bridge, Elliott Bay Book Company and Third Place Books are close to my heart.

What movies or TV shows that you've seen recently would you recommend?    

Before Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, one of his many acclaimed films was Mother—a thriller with indelible characters and incendiary relationships.

What music or podcasts have you been listening to on repeat lately?  

Our own Tomo Nakayama. I first met Tomo when we performed together for the Hugo Literary Series and then for his work with Forterra’s Ampersand Live.

What are the best books you've read in the last few months?    

Elizabeth Rosner’s Survivor Cafe excavates trauma in individual and collective lives, unentangling our national and global memories. Don Mee Choi’s poetry book DMZ Colony is a moving archive of the border between the Koreas.

What outdoor spots or activities have you enjoyed recently?    

My partner and I managed to build a MoonBoard, a climbing wall, in our backyard. Though we can’t wait to someday return to our gym at the Seattle Bouldering Project(Ed. note: SBP is open for limited-capacity climbing by appointment as of Feb 1.)

How else have you stayed entertained in Seattle during COVID? Anything else you'd recommend?  

Since 2016, I have been writing love letters to strangers by hand. In November 2020, I posted my 200th love letter. (Ed. note: You can request one here!)

What are you most looking forward to doing in Seattle when COVID is over?    

Gathering with family and friends.