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Author Carol Roh Spaulding in Conversation with Rekha Basu
Carol Roh Spaulding | Waiting for Mr. Kim and Other Stories
@ Beaverdale Books
Retired Des Moines Register opinion columnist Rekha Basu will talk with Carol Roh Spaulding about her Korean American background and the family roots that inspired this collection of stories, winner of the Flannery O’Conner Award for the Short Story from University of Georgia Press.
These linked stories follow four generations of the Songs, a Korean American family, beginning in 1924 just prior to the Immigration Act and extending to near the end of the century. With these stories, Carol Roh Spaulding charts shifting definitions of “Americanness” across time through the arc of a family narrative that centers on the life experiences of Gracie Song.
Stories that reside in the tension between what it means to be both Asian and American.
Whitecaps scudded along the surface of the bay. Across the water rose the green coastal mountains of Marin with its hushed forests of ancient redwoods. He stayed up there just a minute or two and talked to his daughter in the serious way that people talk to infants when they are alone with them. He pointed across the water and told her about a place that he had once called home. Gracie’s little eyes and nose peeked out from the tightly done wrap and blinked, he thought, comprehending. This tiny person! He could not begin to imagine her fate. But here, just for this moment, he was never going to let go of her, this child for whom the whole world was nothing but a tightly wrapped cloth and his beating heart and, above it all, this wild blue. —Carol Roh Spaulding, Waiting for Mr. Kim and Other Stories
Early Praise for Waiting for Mr. Kim and Other Stories
“Carol Roh Spaulding’s uniquely linked collection of stories and one novella, follows three generations of the Song family, beginning with the family’s emigration from Korea to California shortly before the 1924 Immigration Act. Decade by decade, with shifting perspectives, Waiting for Mr. Kim lays out what it means to be a daughter and what it means to be a mother, what it means to be an immigrant, what it means to be an Asian American woman in this country. The reader first meets Grace—whose perspective threads through many of the stories—via her older sister, a ghost narrator who died tragically and whose death haunts these stories. In the novella that ends the collection, Grace is a grandmother caring for the son of her estranged daughter and is also an older woman embracing desire and love. Roh Spaulding’s prose is gorgeous and lyrical, at other times quiet and restrained, always beautifully precise. Waiting for Mr. Kim is the collection that we have been waiting for, whether we knew it or not.” —Lori Ostlund, Series Editor of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction
“To call Waiting for Mr. Kim a collection doesn’t do it justice; each gem of a story stands alone, the cumulative heft of the characters (including a ghost) spanning the long sweep of the diasporic experience of one family is as satisfying and epic as a multivolume novel.” —Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of The Evening Hero
“Roh Spaulding’s stories draw you in so close you feel them fluttering at your core, where they haunt you and crack you open. With poetic prose clear as mountain water, each character offers brutally honest explorations of how the past steers your future. Whether shouldering the burdens of shifting cultures, lingering poverty, or offering clear-eyed truths of what it means to be a woman in the world with the pressure of conforming bearing down, each page shines with grit and grace. Not since reading Joan Silber’s Improvement and Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Water Museum, have I been ushered so completely over the invisible bridges between two countries. I’m left in awe of this wise and vital collection.” —Devin Murphy, author of The Boat Runner
“This is an absolutely lovely book—quietly affecting, crystalline stories that build in radiance and astonishing power. Waiting for Mr. Kim is a wondrous achievement.” —Don Lee, author of Yellow
About the Author
Carol Roh Spaulding’s short stories and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, Nimrod International, Mississippi Review, December magazine, and many other publications. Her forthcoming novel, Helen Button, received the 2021 Eludia Award from Hidden River Arts. She lives in Central Iowa with her family and teaches at Drake University in Des Moines.
This event will be moderated by Rekha Basu, a retired opinion columnist for The Des Moines Register. She is the author of Finding Her Voice, a compilation of her Register columns on women. Basu has an MS in journalism from Columbia University, an MA in political economy from Goddard-Cambridge Graduate School, a BA in sociology from Brandeis University and an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Grinnell College.