Leonard Chang. Black Heron Press, $14.95 trade paper (236p) ISBN 978-1-936364-09-1
Touted as an "autobiographical novel," this first-rate coming-of-age story is the seventh novel from Chang (Crossings). Eleven-year-old Lenny lives with his dysfunctional Korean family in the rail commuter town of Merrick on Long Island. Lenny's "alcoholic" and "wife-beater" father, Yul, is a former member of the South Korean Navy and now a computer programmer who teaches Lenny judo moves when they're not quarreling and fighting. Lenny's religious mother, Umee, runs an unprofitable candy store when she isn't trying to shield Lenny along with his older brother, Ed, and younger sister, Mira from Yul's drunken physical abuses. Lenny excels in the martial arts well enough to defend Mira and himself from the neighborhood bully Frankie. Umee has a thyroid operation, and the financially-strapped Changs shut down the candy store before Yul buys a junker Cadillac as a prestige symbol. Lenny's growing up takes a large step forward when he befriends an older kid named Sal who secretly raises marijuana plants. He brings Lenny into the lucrative pot dealing business and teaches him how to set a "trip line" to guard his money crop. The Changs' domestic situation worsens after Umee invites her mother, Uhma, to come from South Korea and help Umee run the household. In Chang's sensitive narrative, Umee finds the fortitude to take the necessary steps to save her family during what the author views as the pivotal year of his life. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/26/2014
Release date: 07/01/2014
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-936364-10-7
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