Thursday, March 16, 2017

Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Yoojin Grace Wuertz was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States at age six. She holds a BA in English from Yale University and an MFA in fiction from New York University. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and son.

Wuertz's debut novel is Everything Belongs to Us.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember: The Stroke that Changed My Life by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

This was a surprising read for me because it was so much more than I expected. This is a memoir about what happened to a woman when she had a stroke at the age of 33. Her short-term memory was so debilitated that she could only hold fifteen minutes in her mind at a time. Minor details like what she ate and when she took medication had to be recorded into her journals, to give her a sense of her own daily narrative. She had been an extrovert, but in her recovery she no longer had the mental stamina required to hold extended conversations or participate in noisy restaurants, which were too stimulating and exhausted her limited reserves. She became, as she says, like a toddler—full of uncontrollable feelings that she, and others, found unreasonable and demanding. All of this is described in precise, coherent and beautifully rendered detail.

But the part that ended up being a revelation was how Lee braided in aspects of her identity as a Korean-American raised by survivors of the Korean War. Her upbringing was both the underlying emotional trauma preceding her stroke and the lifeline that pulled her out. What Lee articulates so clearly and importantly is that even catastrophes that seem purely clinical in nature actually occur in the context of one’s specific emotional and cultural history. Engaging with that context is critical to understanding this story, which is equally about identity as it is about stroke recovery.
Visit Yoojin Grace Wuertz's website.

My Book, The Movie: Everything Belongs to Us.

The Page 69 Test: Everything Belongs to Us.

--Marshal Zeringue