The Magical Language of Others

The Magical Language of Others

The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother’s absence. Her mother writes letters, in Korean, over the years seeking forgiveness and love—letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.

As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history—her grandmother Jun’s years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the horrors her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre—and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words—in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language—to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love? Eun Ji Koh fearlessly grapples with forgiveness, reconciliation, legacy, and intergenerational trauma, arriving at insights that are essential reading for anyone who has ever had to balance love, longing, heartbreak, and joy.

The Magical Language of Others weaves a profound tale of hard-won selfhood and our deep bonds to family, place, and language, introducing—in Eun Ji Koh—a singular, incandescent voice.

Title:The Magical Language of Others
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781947793385
Format Type:

    The Magical Language of Others Reviews

  • Olive

    The below review originally appeared on Open Letters Review.Nearly every teen girl has probably had their own Home Alone fantasy at least once. As one’s age ticks upward, so does the restlessness fo...

  • Christy

    The Magical Language of Others is a story of memories. Much of this memoir is translated letters that Eun Ji received from her mother after her parents moved off to South Korea. Eun Ji and her brother...

  • Janet (MommyTheReader)

    This remarkable little book stirred up such heavy emotion within me. You'd quickly realize Koh is a poet, even without reading so in her bio. The way she frames her story, the words she picks, that in...

  • Andrew

    This autobiography is adjacent to a memory box-- mixed in with Eun Ji's tenderly translated letters from her mother, we see bits and pieces of her life, the mundane and the extraordinary, as she navig...

  • Bina Bhakta

    Beautifully written. Definitely will need a few years to process this book...

  • Lynda

    Many thanks to the publisher (Tin House) for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review. This book is amazing, and walks a fine line between prose and poetry, telling the stories of women, aban...

  • Audrey

    Beautifully written with unflinching honesty. This memoir encompasses mothers’ love and guilt for their child while that child also learns about her family’s history. E.J.’s pain is so raw it’...

  • Katie

    I’m not totally sure what to make of this memoir. It’s about loneliness and forgiveness, but it’s also about generational suffering and abandonment. When Eun Ji’s parents leave her and her bro...

  • Greg Barbee

    Magnanimity. It has been several years since a book compelled me to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning finishing it, and yet E.J. Koh’s extraordinary, magnanimous memoir, The Magical Langu...

  • Anna

    I was drawn to this book by the premise but also by the beautiful cover art. It was hard to engage with in the beginning and after realizing that the author has a background in poetry, it started to m...