“The Liberators” by E.J. Koh
November 30, 2023
Daejeon, South Korea. 1980. At twenty-four, Insuk falls in love with her college classmate, Sungho, and with her father’s blessing, they marry. But then, as the military dictatorship, martial law, and nationwide protests bring the country precariously to the edge, Insuk’s father disappears.
In the wake of his disappearance, Insuk flees to California with Sungho, their son Henry, and Sungho’s overbearing mother. Adrift in a new country, Insuk grieves the loss of her past and divided homeland, only to find herself drawn into an illicit affair that sets into motion dramatic events that will echo for generations to come.
Spanning two continents and four generations, E. J. Koh’s debut novel exquisitely captures two Korean families forever changed by fateful decisions made in love and war. Extraordinarily beautiful and deeply moving, The Liberators is an elegantly wrought family saga of memory, trauma, and empathy, and a stunning testament to the consequences and fortunes of inheritance.
E. J. Koh is the author of The Magical Language of Others, which won a Washington State Book Award, Pacific Northwest Book Award, and Association for Asian American Studies Book Award, and was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. Koh is also the author of the poetry collection A Lesser Love, a Pleiades Press Editors Prize for Poetry winner. Koh’s work has appeared in AGNI, the Atlantic, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Poetry, Slate, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. Koh earned her MFA at Columbia University and her PhD at the University of Washington, and has received National Endowment for the Arts and MacDowell fellowships. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
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