Nuclear Family: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Nuclear Family: A Novel (Hardcover)


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Set in the months leading up to the 2018 nuclear missile false alarm, a Korean American family living in Hawai'i faces the fallout of their eldest son's attempt to run across the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea in this "fresh, inventive, and at times, hilarious novel" (Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of The Descendants)

Things are looking up for Mr. and Mrs. Cho. Their dream of franchising their Korean plate lunch restaurants across Hawaiʻi seems within reach after a visit from Guy Fieri boosts the profile of Cho’s Delicatessen. Their daughter, Grace, is busy finishing her senior year of college and working for her parents, while her older brother, Jacob, just moved to Seoul to teach English. But when a viral video shows Jacob trying—and failing—to cross the Korean demilitarized zone, nothing can protect the family from suspicion and the restaurant from waning sales.
 No one knows that Jacob has been possessed by the ghost of his lost grandfather, who feverishly wishes to cross the divide and find the family he left behind in the north. As Jacob is detained by the South Korean government, Mr. and Mrs. Cho fear their son won’t ever be able to return home, and Grace gets more and more stoned as she negotiates her family’s undoing. Struggling with what they don’t know about themselves and one another, the Chos must confront the separations that have endured in their family for decades.
Set in the months leading up to the 2018 false missile alert in Hawaiʻi, Joseph Han’s profoundly funny and strikingly beautiful debut novel is an offering that aches with histories inherited and reunions missed, asking how we heal in the face of what we forget and who we remember.

JOSEPH HAN was born in Korea and raised in Hawaiʻi. He is an editor for the West region of Joyland magazine, and a recipient of a Kundiman Fellowship in Fiction. His writing has appeared in Nat.Brut, Catapult, Pleiades Magazine, Platypus Press Shorts, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He received a PhD in English and Creative Writing at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is currently living in Honolulu.

Product Details ISBN: 9781640094864
ISBN-10: 1640094865
Publisher: Counterpoint
Publication Date: June 7th, 2022
Pages: 320
Language: English
A BuzzFeed Most Anticipated Book of the Year
An LGBTQ Reads Most Anticipated Book
BookRiot, A Best Summer Read of 2022
The Millions, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year

Goodreads, A Most Anticipated Debut Novel of 2022

"[A] gorgeous debut." —Time

"A richly imagined, era-straddling saga exploring several generations of a Korean American clan." —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

"An entrancing, boldly satisfying debut from Joseph Han. It feels both massive, grand on a global scale, and also small and intimate; a deeply personal story of a family trying to keep their small business open when their son suddenly causes the eyes of the world to turn on them. Nuclear Family is a knock-out." —Jeffrey Masters, The Advocate, One of the Best Books of The Year

"Such a beautiful, original book . . . It’s a gorgeous meditation on loss and memory, a painful and haunting novel about the legacies of war and the violence of separation." —Laura Sackton, Book Riot

"A compelling debut." —Autostraddle

"Han’s powerful book examines both the borders put up in the world and the ones we surround ourselves with to protect ourselves in this memorable and innovative debut" —Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful

"Tragic, funny, and strikingly ingenious, Han’s prodigious debut is a spectacular achievement. Seamlessly dovetailed into his sublime multigenerational saga are pivotal history lessons, anti-colonial denunciations, political slaps. For Korean speakers, Han’s brilliant linguistic acrobatics will prove particularly enlightening (Jeong is a homophone for jeong, something akin to empathic connection) and shrewdly entertaining." —Booklist (starred review)

“Han makes a smashing debut with this stunning take on identity and migration told through the multiple perspectives of a Korean American family . . . [W]hile it’s heartbreaking, it’s also sharply hilarious . . . This is a master class from a brilliant new voice.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Han’s surreal fantasy, sometimes devolving into slapstick, contains a serious critique: of the marginalization of Korean immigrants; of the plight of families separated by a politically contrived border; of shattered lives, pain, and guilt. A raucous and adroit debut." —Kirkus Reviews

"A Top Summer Debut . . . Evocative." —Library Journal

“One of the most original novels I’ve read in the last decade. Nuclear Family imagines a story of the lives of our Korean ancestors in the present tense, their ghost life as full of urgency, politics, and complication as our own. How far does the separation at the thirty-eighth parallel go?, Han asks. All the way into the land of spirit, a wound for the living and the dead.” —Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

Nuclear Family is a world unto itself: Joseph Han's novel is heartfelt and propulsive, immersing readers in a narrative whose questions of family, borders, queerness, and forgiveness constantly surprises and astounds. Han's prose is remarkable—both deadpan and compassionate—juggling the stories that we're told with the ones we seek to tell ourselves. Nuclear Family is a singular work, and Han's writing is truly special.” —Bryan Washington, author of Memorial and Lot

“A haunting, tender, potent, and frequently very funny testament to the pull of history and the tenacity of ghosts. Spellbinding and original, Nuclear Family is a novel to hold close.” —R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries

"Joseph Han is a new voice that enriches the landscape of American literature. Nuclear Family continually surprises and moves with a grace and breadth beyond most debut novels. It boldly, compassionately reimagines the thirty-eighth parallel dividing North and South Korea and the lives of immigrant families with an innovative plot that is entirely Han's own." —Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean

"Han will draw you in with his dry, slacker humor, his playful references to weed and Guy Fieri, but he will keep you reading with his heartfelt determination to tell a family saga that holds nothing back. Nuclear Family is about borders, both imposed and self-created, the family history and trauma we try to outrun, what happens when we inevitably fail to. A debut filled with ghosts that manages to still be so very alive." —Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of Pizza Girl

"Nuclear Family is a rollicking, immersive family saga unlike any you've read before, a novel that explores the intergenerational legacy of trauma—and what it costs us to both survive and remember—while also delivering more than its share of laughs. Deft, candid, and perpetually surprising, Joseph Han's debut is one not to miss." —Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know

"The Korean Demilitarized Zone is one of the most militarized borders in the world. A division created by US and Soviet forces after World War II, following the 35-year-long Japanese occupation of Korea. It is harder to weigh a complicated history of war that permanently exiles its victims. Joseph Han’s Nuclear Family follows the perpetual victims of war who must continue to respond and learn to live through and within such a world—nevertheless." —E. J. Koh, author of The Magical Language of Others and A Lesser Love

"Joseph Han's Nuclear Family is a moving exploration of the losses we inherit, the continual violence of borders, and the embodiedness of history. He shows us that what is so powerful and resurrective about mythmaking is not that it provides an escape from our world but that it allows us to see the deeper truths of it, to give agency to the buried, and to shape possibility across space and time and generations. Han writes with incredible empathy for the living and the dead, subverting borders of all kinds to illuminate intergenerational dynamics, labor, and the living marrow of memory." —K-Ming Chang, author of Bestiary

"Nuclear Family manages to capture Hawaiʻi, North and South Korea, Guy Fieri and family-run delicatessens, teenage gloom, the weight of our family and ancestors, and settle them all onto an appetizing plate. A fresh, inventive, and at times, hilarious novel." —Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of The Descendants