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Secondhand World

Author: Katherine Min

ISBN: 0-307-26344-4

Katherine Min has penned a poignant story about a Korean/American teenager girl living in Albany. 
In a beautiful language, she recounts the tale of Isadora Myung Hee Sohn, Isa, born in a superstitious society that worships boys. “Boys are loved whereas girls are just born”. 

Her four year old brother, Stephen is killed by accident.  After such a blinding loss, her mom is a depressive whereas her dad, a physicist, is cold as ice, almost never shows his emotions.   He would like Isa to learn about her heritage but she is too ashamed of it. Her beautiful mom encourages her to save money in order to have corrective surgery on her sloe eyes, implying that she is not quite pretty!  Isa completely dissociates herself from her parents and seeks psychological refuge with her friend Rachel and her parents. 

At school, where experiences discrimination, she falls in love with Hero, an Albino- a “fellow freak” and has her first sexual encounter. They experiment all kinds of positions until they are caught in the act by her mom. In the discussion that ensues, Isa cruelly accuses her mom of neglect in the case of her brother’s death!
Rachel, Hero and Isa decide to run away but shortly after they are caught by the state troopers and returned home to Albany.  Hero already starts to pull away from Isa, as well as Rachel.

In the meantime, her mom has an affair with her poetry teacher and Isa cannot help herself but to tell her dad.
As the story climaxes into a fire, the author explains finally why Isa’s father was so cold and how much he suffered during the Korean War. She also learns of her mom’s propensity to depression and suicide.

Secondhand world is not a book that can easily put down.  A page turner, it is a lovely yet excruciating tale told with aching humanity and a masterful vocabulary. A few Korean words are also used to put us into the context of the story.

The above review was contributed by:  Lily Azerad-Goldman: Artist: CLICK TO VIEW Lily Azerad-Goldman's Reviews

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