Ask a bookseller: 'The Magical Language of Others' gives a compassionate look at mother-daughter relationships

“The Magical Language of Others” by E.J. Koh. 
“The Magical Language of Others” by poet and translator E.J. Koh. 
Courtesy of TinHouse

Amanda Toronto of Word Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., says she can’t stop thinking about a memoir she read recently: “The Magical Language of Others” by poet and translator E.J. Koh. 

Koh was born in the United States, but when she was 15, her parents moved back to South Korea for her father’s job. Koh remained in the U.S. with her older brother, separated from her parents during those formative years as she continued her schooling. 

The memoir explores not only her long-distance relationship with her mother, but also her mother’s and grandmothers’ lives in Korea. Interspersed among the sections of the book are her mother’s letters, written in Korean during their separation and later translated by the author.

Toronto says the memoir at times reads like poetry, calling it a “compassionate, vulnerable, sad, and loving book about mother-daughter relationships.” 

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