Patricia Park’s debut novel “Re Jane” recounts the post-grad life of its title heroine as she balances her Korean and American identities. | Image courtesy: Navdheep Singh Dhillon, who happens to have a really great list of recent novels by people of color.
For Jane Re, it ain’t easy being 20-something. Fresh out of college, the job market sucks and she’s peppered with criticism at home by the uncle who’s raised her in Queens. What’s a girl to do?
Get the heck out of Flushing, for starters, then find a job as a nanny, inappropriately fall for her employer, recognize the inappropriateness of it all, run far, far away, and work through something of an identity crisis.
Patricia Park’s debut novel “Re Jane” takes the reader on a relatable journey, and not just because it takes inspiration from “Jane Eyre.” While the arc of her coming of age feels familiar, Jane is different.
It’s written on her face with features bestowed upon her by her Busan-born Korean mother and American father Currer Bell. It’s manifested in little lingual slip-ups in both Korean and English and cross-cultural misunderstandings between New York and Seoul.
Her friends seem at home in their respective worlds, but Jane awkwardly straddles all of them.
Childhood friends from Flushing fall neatly into their Korean American community of hard working parents with dreams of Ivies and finance jobs for their children. The Korean Korean group smoothly slide between long work hours, company dinners, and trips to the latest nightlife hotspots around Seoul. Nina, her best friend from Brooklyn, moves about her own neighborhood with easy confidence, respecting her nonna‘s wishes while quietly working to pursue her own dreams on the side.
By getting involved with all of them, Jane’s worlds clash.
You would think there would be some reprieve at home, but even there there’s uncertainty. Her Korean immigrant uncle has one set of expectations for her, her family in Korea has another, and the family for whom she nannies are gunning for her to liberate herself entirely. Where exactly is home, any way?
All are self-assured in a way Jane has never experienced, and the onus lands on her to carve out her own identity.
P.S. Got great reads? Please suggest in the comments below! I’m interested in fiction, non-fiction, and academic texts pertaining to Asian American, particularly Chinese American and mixed-Chinese, identities. I’m also really interested in really great memoirs and narrative non-fiction to help me with my own craft for this project.