The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon – #BookPreview #KoreanLit

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
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“The Incendiaries” by R.O. Kwon is the latest book related to Korea that is highly anticipated and rated by readers.

It is similar to Min Jin Lee’s book “Pachinko”, but it is especially similar to Min Jin Lee’s novel “Free Food For Millionaires”.

“Pachinko” as well as “The Incendiaries” discuss the themes of religious belief and fevor within the context of a Korean immigrant experience.

“Free Food For Millionaires” and “The Incendiaries” both talk of the lives of immigrants to America (especially children of Korean immigrants). They both also talk of the theme of identity and cultural anxiety within the American context.

Both “Free Food for Millionaires” and “The Incendiaries” have Korean American women with somewhat elite backgrounds as their main protagonist. Which makes sense as both Min Jin Lee and K.O. Kwon are themselves Korean Americans, so have the knowledge and nuances of living as Korean Americans in their bones.

Check out the Book Review for Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko” here.

These books are not some stereotypical books about the American immigrant elite rising to the top in academia and being praised for their hard working and docile personalities. These books describe the ins and outs – the insecurities and variety of thoughts and decisions – that shape some of Korean American’s experiences in the US today.

Both books were also their author’s debut novel and took an incredible long time to write. (In particular, R.O. Kwon took ten years to write her novel “The Incendiaries”).

This is because both Min Jin Lee and R.O. Kwon seem particular about the language they use – the rhythm and flow – and both seem to be perfectionists in how they write.

Here is NPR’s interview with Min Jin Lee about her book “Free Food For Millionaries”

“The Incendiaries” has already been named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by The New York Times, Elle, Time, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Book Riot, and the BBC.

It is about Phoebe Lin (a daughter of Korean immigrants) who struggles with grief as she gets caught deeper and deeper in a religious cult run by a charismatic American student with a past link to North Korea and Phoebe’s Korean family.

A.J. McMahon
(P.S. Got any other books you want me to read or review? Then…)

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By A.J. McMahon

I write about chess and books on my blog at I love reading books - especially non-fiction books and science fiction books. I am also a really avid player of chess on

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