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2.28.2020

Angry Reader of the Week: Min Jin Lee

"If you keep your word, do your work, do good and are good, I think that's a great fucking life."


Photo: Elena Seibert.

Hey, folks! It's been a minute, but we're back and read to meet another Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Min Jin Lee.


Who are you?

I'm Min Jin Lee. I'm 51 years old.

What are you?

I'm a writer. I quit being a lawyer in 1995. I practiced law for less than two years. It wasn't for me. I failed the New York State bar exam on my first try. I passed on the second go. That said, I liked law school. I like school.

Where are you?

I'm based in Harlem where I live with my family. In the fall, I commute to Amherst, Massachusetts to teach.

Where are you from?

I was born in Seoul and immigrated to the U.S. with my family in 1976 when I was seven years old. I grew up in Queens, New York. I went to the Bronx High School of Science, so I have deep respect for people who can play around with math and science. I’m fine enough at it but I'm not a natural. I've met some whizzes in my time. I majored in History in college. I love history.

What do you do?

I have five jobs. 1. I teach creative writing at Amherst College; 2. I write books. I'm writing the non-fiction book Name Recognition: A Memoir of Voice and Visibility about how I learned to talk and say stuff that's difficult. For the past few years, I've also been working on the novel American Hagwon, which is the third volume in "The Koreans" diaspora trilogy, and it's about the value of education for Koreans around the world. Both books are kicking my ass; 3. I give lectures about writing and politics; 4. I write essays and criticism for publications on a freelance basis; 5. I may write a series adaptation of my first novel Free Food for Millionaires. I just finished writing the spec pilot.

I do not work on Sundays.

What are you all about?

I'm a high-functioning introvert. I have some depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. I'm also a Presbyterian. It's a fun mix. I care a lot about the truth. I'm not a happy person, and it doesn't bother me. I'd go as far as to say with conviction that I do not believe in the search for happiness. If you keep your word, do your work, do good and are good, I think that's a great fucking life.

What makes you angry?

Mean people, liars, phonies, and greedy assholes. I am not impressed by people who will do whatever it takes. I disagree strongly with outcome-oriented behavior. The ends do not always justify the means. Perspective and process matter. This may seem paradoxical but even though I am often angry, I am also mostly grateful. Constructive action can sometimes help change our shitty circumstances. I am not passive. As you can imagine, I find life difficult.