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Additional Information
ISBN: 978-1931883962
Pages: 134
Size: 5 x 8
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Distributed By: Publishers Group West
Author
Kim Sagwa is one of South Korea’s most acclaimed emerging writers. She is the author of several novels, story collections, and works of nonfiction, and has been shortlisted for several major South Korean awards, including the Munji Prize and the Young Writers Award. Kim contributes columns to two major Seoul newspapers, and she co-translated John Freeman's book How to Read a Novelist into Korean.
Translator
Based in Seoul, Sunhee Jeong is a Korean-English translator and editor of literary and multimedia productions. She is also a scholar of visual studies, intersectionality and critical theory.

b, Book, and Me

by Kim Sagwa
Translated from Korean by
Sunhee Jeong
$16.95

“At turns raw and piercing, dreamy and surreal, Kim’s latest import…is a pressing indictment of today’s too-often onerous transition toward uncertain adulthood.” Booklist, Starred Review

b, Book, and Me uses the tumult of teenage thinking and feeling to tell a story that readers of every age will savor… It accomplishes more in its 134 pages than many novels double and triple its size.” —John Francisconi, Bank Square Books (Mystic, Connecticut)

Best friends b and Rang are all each other have. Their parents are absent, their teachers avert their eyes when they walk by. Everyone else in town acts like they live in Seoul even though it’s painfully obvious they don’t. When Rang begins to be bullied horribly by the boys in baseball hats, b fends them off. But one day Rang unintentionally tells the whole class about b’s dying sister and how her family is poor, and each of them finds herself desperately alone. The only place they can reclaim themselves, and perhaps each other, is beyond the part of town where lunatics live—the End.

In a piercing, heartbreaking, and astonishingly honest voice, Kim Sagwa’s b, Book, and Me walks the precipice between youth and adulthood, reminding us how perilous the edge can be.

Praise

“At turns raw and piercing, dreamy and surreal, Kim’s latest import…is a pressing indictment of today’s too-often onerous transition toward uncertain adulthood.” Booklist, Starred Review

“Best friends are especially important for those who have no family to understand them, and South Korean writer [Kim Sagwa] tells the eerie story of what can happen when those friendships are cut off. It’s a familiar picture of teenage pain, despite the faraway setting.”—Glamour, “The Best Books of 2020 (So Far)”

“Readers looking for fresh, new voices will want to pick up b, Book, and Me, a story about two friends struggling to move into adulthood in a South Korean town…It’s a perfect novel for lovers of translated fiction and coming-of-age stories alike.” Book Riot, “Most Anticipated Books 2020”

“A haunting and complex portrayal of teenage angst in today’s modern society…Kim skillfully probes the relationship between the dangerous and existential angst of adolescents and the pressures of trying to survive in a globalist-capitalist world.” —Korean Literature Now

“This little book is the perfect read for some moody teenage vibes that are also achingly exquisite. Translated beautifully from the Korean by Sunhee Jeong, b, Book, and Me embodies the vital and fraught relationships between adolescent girls, while also being a meditation on depression and the meaning of place. It will make you smile, break your heart, and put you on a breakwater with wind in your hair as you grapple with the trickier parts of life.” —Electric Literature

“A dark, dystopian view of South Korean adolescence, hopelessness, and the cruelties children are capable of inflicting on each other.” Kirkus Reviews

“Scathing…b, Book, and Me brings to the surface what seems to be a silent plea for help and compassion in a world that seems indifferent to the pain of ordinary people.” —International Examiner

“[Kim’s] polemics lurk rather than pounce…she wants us to feel not only the immediate hurt but the dread of pummeling to come. This, Sagwa implies, is what we’re all in for unless the word ‘unless’ stops sounding absurdly impossible.” —On the Seawall

“Surreal and luminous.” —Foreword Reviews

“Kim has her finger on the quickening pulse of modern youth as she portrays a town where everyone is preoccupied with bigger, grander vistas and what they need to become—and who they need to trample—to get there. Filled with a dizzying, psyche-breaking anxiety, b, Book, and Me is a fever dream of how an entire generation is struggling under the debilitating grasp of capitalism and the illusion of social mobility. Truly haunting.” —Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)

“Brilliant, poignant, and heart wrenching, it’s with compelling honesty that Kim captures the complexities of youth. b, Book, and Me blends fantasy with reality to depict the unbearableness of existence and the uncertainty of the future. This is a beautiful, tender little book.” —Cristina Rodriguez, Deep Vellum Books (Dallas, TX)

b, Book, and Me uses the tumult of teenage thinking and feeling to tell a story that readers of every age will savor… It accomplishes more in its 134 pages than many novels double and triple its size.” —John Francisconi, Bank Square Books (Mystic, Connecticut)

“An amazing little novel from a young, exciting Korean voice… With writing that explodes with personality, dark wit, and a keen eye for emotion and character; b, Book, and Me perfectly captures the ache of growing up, the pain of change, and the desire to preserve in amber the simple pleasures of youth. I loved every page of this strange, beautiful treasure of a book.” —Caleb Masters, Bookmarks (Winston-Salem, NC)

“This book shows a great understanding and portrayal of teenage angst, following the issues many of us faced during our teen years. Whilst the background narrative of growing up in Korea is a strong story itself, the inner turmoil experienced when a friendship goes wrong is brutally honest, something that makes this book an uncomfortable read at times but also difficult to put down. I will be recommending this book to my older teenage readers.” —Elisha Lemke, Exeter Central Public Library

Author
Kim Sagwa is one of South Korea’s most acclaimed emerging writers. She is the author of several novels, story collections, and works of nonfiction, and has been shortlisted for several major South Korean awards, including the Munji Prize and the Young Writers Award. Kim contributes columns to two major Seoul newspapers, and she co-translated John Freeman's book How to Read a Novelist into Korean.
Translator
Based in Seoul, Sunhee Jeong is a Korean-English translator and editor of literary and multimedia productions. She is also a scholar of visual studies, intersectionality and critical theory.
Excerpt from the book

The city was located east of the ocean. All of us who lived there were pretty much the same. We all went to the same school, watched movies at the same movie theater, and ate hamburgers at the same burger place. We all dreamt the same dream—as in, we didn’t dream at all. We just swayed like the waves, back and forth, back and forth, and ended up in the same place we were before. There was just one kid who wanted to be a fish. That’s b, who is sitting next to me right now. Then you can just go into the water and stay there, said b. You can stay there forever. You don’t have to pay the rent. You don’t have to go grocery shopping. You don’t even have to work or go to school. Then, said b, you don’t need money. You can be poor, said b, who is poor.

I want to go into the water and never come out of it.

b reached out and brushed off the sand on her knees. I waited for b’s next words.

I want to be a fish.

That’s what b said.

But in my opinion, it wasn’t that easy to be a fish. Being a fish, I said, means that you have scales on your body. I put my palms together and stretched them out towards b. It means that your body becomes flat, like this. It means that you have fins and gills, and that your legs disappear. I tightened my fists and shook my body. You become ugly. Is that what you want to become? Are you into that?

Yeah, I am.

b was resolute.

I’ll go into the water. And I’ll never come back out.

We were sitting on the sand. The ocean glittered, reflecting the sunlight. It was a really splendid Friday afternoon, in the middle of spring. But there weren’t any slim women in flowery bikinis, or well-tanned men out to hit on them. You couldn’t find people like that, not even in the summer. And that’s because our city is dull. If you go to Seoul, said Glasses, there’s a TV that’s as big as fifteen of the class TVs put together. But it’s even thinner than my workbook. Glasses was our class president. He was talking about Seoul. But we knew as little about Seoul as we did on how to turn into a fish. In a way, turning into a fish sounded more feasible than living in Seoul. Glasses wanted to live in Seoul. So he wore thick glasses and worked on his workbook feverishly. I thought that Glasses’ parents were pretty impressive–that is, if they named Glasses knowing that he’d wear his glasses and study hard. Glasses was sitting with us on the sand, but instead of wasting time, like we were, he was solving problems in his workbook. Glasses’ aunt, who lives in Seoul, bought him the workbook. Apparently, all smart students in Seoul study with that workbook. Glasses had one for every subject. He particularly liked the math one, which could be why he was very good at math. We called Glasses the King of Math.