By Margaret Mager, President, and Irena Choi Stern, Publicity Chair, Friends of the Bronxville Public Library
Feb. 7, 2018: There was no mistaking the size of the crowd that gathered in Concordia College’s Sommer Center on January 23 to hear Min Jin Lee, author of the bestselling novel Pachinko, a finalist for the National Book Award and one of the New York Times’s Top 10 Books of 2017. Nearly 350 community members attended the conversation with the author, conducted by Sissel McCarthy, distinguished lecturer and director of the journalism program at Hunter College.
A free event sponsored by the Friends of the Bronxville Public Library ("FOBPL"), the evening began with a welcome by Concordia College’s President Rev. Dr. John A. Nunes and introductions by Margaret Mager, president of the FOBPL.
Originally scheduled for the Yeager Room of the Bronxville Public Library, the enthusiastic response led to Concordia’s generous offer to accommodate the 400 registrants in the Sommer Center. Concordia’s senior director of community relations, Joyce Kennedy, arranged to videotape the event, and it can be viewed here or on the Bronxville Village cable channel, daily at 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
“We were treated to a special evening of literary analysis thanks to the insightful exchange between Sissel and Min Jin,” Mager said. “Prejudice, discrimination, and the stereotyping of immigrants and refugees were key themes in Pachinko. With 66 million refugees worldwide, and profound changes in US immigration policies unfolding before our eyes, these themes are prescient and resonated with the audience.”
For the next five months, Lee’s calendar is jam-packed as she continues on a worldwide book tour because the readership of Pachinko has gone global. “Pachinko has universal appeal because it chronicles not only the hardship and discrimination faced by immigrants everywhere but also the strength and goodness of the human spirit,” said Sissel McCarthy, who asked Min about her own experience moving from South Korea to Elmhurst, Queens, at age seven. Many agreed that the conversation with the down-to-earth author elevated the audience beyond a discussion of the book itself.
“The evening was extraordinary in every sense of the word,” said Bronxville resident Linda Smith-Shearer. “Min Jin Lee was such a warm, intelligent, perceptive, wise, charming, and inspiring woman, not to mention a woman with a delightful sense of humor (always impressed with someone for whom English is not their first language). I couldn’t put the book down and have now just downloaded her first so I can be up-to-date when #3 is published.”
Gene and Alex Sgarlata of Womrath Bookshop held a book sale and signing following the event, and a few signed copies are still available at the store. The third book in Min’s Korea trilogy will be about the hyper-competitive academic culture.
The Friends of the Bronxville Public Library plans to bring more authors to Bronxville and may look into organizing an annual community read for area book clubs combined with a January author visit. To support FOBPL’s future programming, click here.
Pictured here (from top): Author Min Jin Lee (L) with Sissel McCarthy; the crowd at the event.
Photos by Irena Choi Stern
Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes press releases, statements, and articles from local institutions, legislators, and candidates. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.