Min Jin Lee

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Min Jin Lee
Lee at the 2018 US National Book Festival
Lee at the 2018 US National Book Festival
Born (1968-11-11) November 11, 1968 (age 53)
Seoul, South Korea
EducationYale University (BA)
Georgetown University (JD)
SpouseChristopher Duffy
Min Jin Lee
Revised RomanizationYi Minjin
McCune–ReischauerYi Minjin

Min Jin Lee (born November 11, 1968) is a Korean American author and journalist based in Harlem, Manhattan. Her work frequently deals with Korean and Korean American topics.[1] She is the author of the novels Free Food for Millionaires (2007) and Pachinko (2017).


Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea.[2] Her family came to the United States in 1976, when she was seven years old, and she grew up in Elmhurst, Queens, in New York City.[1][3] Her parents owned a wholesale jewelry store there. As a new immigrant, she spent much time at the Queens Public Library, where she learned to read and write.[4] She attended the Bronx High School of Science, and later studied history and was a resident of Trumbull College at Yale College in Connecticut.[5] While at Yale she attended her first writing workshop, as part of a non-fiction writing class she had signed up for in her junior year.[5] She also studied law at Georgetown University Law Center,[2] later working as a corporate lawyer in New York from 1993 to 1995.[3] She quit law due to the extreme working hours and her chronic liver disease, deciding to focus on her writing instead.[6][3] She lived in Tokyo, Japan, for four years from 2007 to 2011.[7] Lee resides in Harlem, Manhattan, with her son, Sam, and her husband, Christopher Duffy, who is half Japanese.[8]

In 2018, Lee said that the works that most influence her as a writer are Middlemarch by George Eliot, Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac, and the Bible.[9]

Lee served three consecutive seasons as an English-language columnist of South Korea's newspaper Chosun Ilbo's "Morning Forum" feature.[10]

She has also lectured about writing, literature, and politics at Columbia University, Amherst College, Tufts, Loyola Marymount University, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins (SAIS), University of Connecticut, Boston College, Hamilton College, Harvard Law School, Yale University, Ewha University, Waseda University, the American School in Japan, World Women's Forum, the Tokyo American Center of the U.S. Embassy, and the Asia Society in New York, San Francisco, and Hong Kong.[11] She is currently the writer-in-residence at Amherst College in Massachusetts.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Lee is the cousin of actress Kim Hye-eun, who starred in the drama Twenty-Five Twenty-One.[13]


Short fiction[edit]

Lee's short story "Axis of Happiness" won the 2004 Narrative Prize from Narrative Magazine.[14]

Another short story by Lee, "Motherland", about a family of Koreans in Japan, was published in The Missouri Review in 2002 and won the Peden Prize for Best Short Story.[15] A slightly modified version of the story appears in her 2017 novel Pachinko.[16]

Lee's short stories have also been featured on NPR's Selected Shorts.[17]

Free Food for Millionaires[edit]

Her debut novel Free Food for Millionaires was published in 2007.[18][19] It was named one of the Top 10 Novels of the Year by The Times of London,[20] NPR's Fresh Air, and USA Today; a notable novel by the San Francisco Chronicle;[21] and a New York Times Editor's Choice.[22] It was a selection for the Wall Street Journal Juggler Book Club,[23] and a No. 1 Book Sense pick. The novel was published in the U.K. by Random House in 2007, in Italy by Einaudi and in South Korea by Image Box Publishing. The book has also been featured on online periodicals such as the Page 99 test[24] and Largehearted Boy.[25]

A 10th Anniversary edition of the novel was released by Apollo in 2017.[26] It was announced in January 2021 that Lee and screenwriter Alan Yang had teamed up to bring Free Food for Millionaires to Netflix as a TV series.[19][18]


In 2017 Lee released Pachinko, an epic historical novel following characters from Korea who eventually migrate to Japan. It is the first novel written for an adult, English-speaking audience about Korean Japanese culture.[27] The book received strong reviews including those from The Guardian,[28] NPR,[29] The New York Times,[30] The Sydney Morning Herald,[31] The Irish Times,[32] and Kirkus Reviews[33] and is on the "Best Fiction of 2017" lists from Esquire,[34] the Chicago Review of Books,[35] Amazon.com,[36] Entertainment Weekly,[citation needed] the BBC,[37] The Guardian,[38] and Book Riot.[39] In a Washington Post interview, writer Roxane Gay called Pachinko her favorite book of 2017.[40] The book was named by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2017.[41]

Pachinko was a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.[42] In August 2018, it was announced that Apple Inc. had obtained the screen rights to the novel for development as a television series for Apple TV+.[43] The series, consisting of eight episodes, premiered in March 2022.[44]


Lee has published non-fiction in periodicals such as The New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Times of London, Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue, Travel + Leisure, and Food & Wine.


Lee has written a number of reviews. In 2012 she wrote a review of Toni Morrison's Home in The Times of London,[45] and also a review in the Times of London of March Was Made of Yarn, edited by David Karashima and Elmer Luke, a collection of essays, stories, poems and manga made by Japanese artists and citizens in the wake of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[46] She also wrote Times of London reviews of Cynthia Ozick's Foreign Bodies[47] and Jodi Picoult's Wonder Woman: Love and Murder.[48]


Her essays include "Will", anthologized in Breeder – Real Life Stories from the New Generation of Mothers (Seal Press Books, 2001) and "Pushing Away the Plate" in To Be Real (edited by Rebecca Walker) (Doubleday, 1995). Lee also published a piece in the New York Times Magazine entitled "Low Tide", about her observations of the survivors of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[49] She wrote another essay entitled Up Front: After the Earthquake in Vogue, reflecting upon her experiences living in Japan with her family after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.[50] Lee has also written two other essays in Vogue, including Weighing In (2008) and Crowning Glory (2007).

An essay entitled "Reading the World" that Lee wrote appears in the March 26, 2010, issue of Travel + Leisure.[51] She also wrote an article profiling the cuisine and work of Tokyo chef Seiji Yamamoto in Food & Wine.[52] She has also written a piece for the Barnes & Noble review entitled Sex, Debt, and Revenge: Balzac’s Cousin Bette.[53]

Her interviews and essays have also been profiled in online periodicals such as Chekhov's Mistress ("My Other Village: Middlemarch by George Eliot"),[54] Moleskinerie ("Pay Yourself First"),[55] and ABC News ("Biblical Illiteracy or Reading the Bestseller").[56]

Other essays by Lee have been anthologized in The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Works, Why I'm a Democrat (Ed. Susan Mulcahy), One Big Happy Family, Sugar in My Bowl and Global and the Intimate: Feminism in Our Time.


Short stories[edit]


  • Free Food for Millionaires (2007), Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 978-0-446-58108-0.
  • Pachinko (2017), Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 978-1-455-56393-7


She received the NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts) Fellowship for Fiction, the Peden Prize from The Missouri Review for Best Story, and The Narrative Prize for New and Emerging Writer.[57]

While at Yale, she was awarded the Henry Wright Prize for Nonfiction and the James Ashmun Veech Prize for Fiction.[58]

In 2017, Lee was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction for her novel Pachinko.[42] That book was runner-up in the 2018 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in Fiction.[59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Min Jin Lee", KQED Arts, archived from the original on 2018-02-26, retrieved 2011-09-29
  2. ^ a b "Min Jin Lee". Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  3. ^ a b c "Best-selling author Min Jin Lee is finishing her trilogy at Radcliffe". Harvard Gazette. 2019-03-06. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  4. ^ Queen's Library. "An Interview with Min Gin Lee: Bestselling Author of Pachinko". Queen's Library Youtube. Queen's Library. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Lee, Min Jin. "Stonehenge, by Min Jin Lee". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  6. ^ hermesauto (2019-10-21). "Singapore Writers Festival: Pachinko author Min Jin Lee wants to know all about Singapore's tuition centres". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  7. ^ "Min Jin Lee". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2019-03-06.
  8. ^ Leonard, Sue (2017-08-21). "Min Jin Lee". Sue Leonard. Retrieved 2019-03-06.
  9. ^ Queen's Library. "An Interview with Min Jin Lee, the Bestselling Author of Pachinko". Queen's Library Youtube. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  10. ^ MinJinLee.com, "Being A Columnist" Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ MinJinLee.com, About
  12. ^ "Min Jin Lee on Moving to Boston". Amherst College. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  13. ^ Jang, Jin-ri (April 6, 2022). "'파친코' 원작 이민진 작가, 놀라운 가족 관계…"'2521' 김혜은=내 사촌" [Writer Lee Min-jin, the original author of 'Pachinko', has an amazing family relationship... "'2521' Kim Hye-eun = My cousin] (in Korean). SpoTV News. Retrieved April 6, 2022 – via Naver.
  14. ^ a b "Narrative Prize | Narrative Magazine". www.narrativemagazine.com. 2021-02-18. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  15. ^ a b ""Motherland" by Min Jin Lee | The Missouri Review". Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  16. ^ "'Choose the important over the urgent,' and more writing advice from Min Jin Lee". PBS NewsHour. 2018-07-06. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  17. ^ Ginny Too, "Interview: Min Jin Lee, Asian American Writer's Workshop", "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-05. Retrieved 2007-07-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ a b Low, Elaine (2021-01-27). "Netflix, Alan Yang Developing Min Jin Lee's 'Free Food for Millionaires' for TV (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  19. ^ a b Sanchez, Gabrielle (2021-01-27). "Min Jin Lee and Alan Yang Join Forces for Netflix Series". Vulture. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  20. ^ Saunders, Kate (2007-11-30), The Times Christmas choice: fiction, London: The Times, retrieved 2009-01-03.
  21. ^ Villalon, Oscar (2007-12-23), "Bay Area authors' books among best of '07", San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved 2009-01-03.
  22. ^ Politkovskaya, Anna (2007-07-08), Editor's Choice, The New York Times, retrieved 2009-01-03.
  23. ^ Schaefer Munoz, Sara (2008-01-22), "Free Food for Millionaires: When Everyone Else is a Big Spender", The Wall Street Journal, retrieved 2009-01-03.
  24. ^ "The Page 99 Test: Min Jin Lee's "Free Food for Millionaires"". 21 July 2007.
  25. ^ Min Jin Lee – Free Food for Millionaires, Largeheartedboy.com.
  26. ^ James Kidd, Book review: Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires, a modern-day Middlemarch but more fun, gets deserved re-release, South China Morning Post, August 21, 2017.
  27. ^ PBS. "Min Jin Lee. 2017 Miami Book Fair". pbs.org. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  28. ^ Aw, Tash (15 March 2017). "Pachinko by Min Jin Lee review – rich story of the immigrant experience". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 June 2017.
  29. ^ Zimmerman, Jean (7 February 2017). "Culture Clash, Survival and Hope in 'Pachinko'". National Public Radio (NPR). Archived from the original on 5 October 2017.
  30. ^ Lee, Krys (2 February 2017). "Home but Not Home: Four Generations of an Ethnic Korean Family in Japan". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 4 October 2017.
  31. ^ Craven, Peter (4 August 2017). "Pachinko review: Min Jin Lee's saga of Koreans in Japan is hard to put down". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 5 October 2017.
  32. ^ Boyne, John (5 August 2017). "Pachinko review: a masterpiece of empathy, integrity and family loyalty". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 11 August 2017.
  33. ^ "An absorbing saga of 20th-century Korean experience, seen through the fate of four generations". Kirkus Reviews. Archived from the original on 5 October 2017.
  34. ^ Ledgerwood, Angela (7 September 2017). "The Best Books of 2017 (So Far)". Esquire. Archived from the original on 3 October 2017.
  35. ^ Morgan, Adam (28 June 2017). "The Best Fiction Books of 2017 So Far". Chicago Review of Books. Archived from the original on 7 September 2017.
  36. ^ "Best Books of the Year So Far: Literature & Fiction". Amazon.com. 5 October 2017. Archived from the original on 5 October 2017.
  37. ^ Ciabattari, Jane (16 December 2016). "Ten books to read in 2017". BBC News. Archived from the original on 15 January 2017.
  38. ^ Aw, Tash (9 July 2017). "Best holiday reads 2017, picked by writers – part two". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 July 2017.
  39. ^ Nicolas, Sarah (11 July 2017). "Best Books of 2017 (So Far)". Book Riot. Archived from the original on 14 July 2017.
  40. ^ Haupt, Angela (31 August 2017). "8 authors coming to the National Book Festival tell us the best thing they read this year". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 11 September 2017.
  41. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2017". New York Times. 30 November 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  42. ^ a b "2017 National Book Award finalists revealed". CBS News. October 4, 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-04.
  43. ^ Petski, Denise (2018-08-07). "Apple Developing Int'l Drama Based On Min Jin Lee's 'Pachinko' Novel". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  44. ^ "Everything we know about Apple TV+'s adaptation of 'Pachinko'". NME. 2021-04-01. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  45. ^ Min Jin Lee, "Home by Toni Morrison" (review), The Times, 21 April 2012.
  46. ^ Min Jin Lee, March Was Made of Yarn: edited by David Karashima and Elmer Luke (review), The Times.
  47. ^ Min Jin Lee, Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (review), The Times, 11 June 2011.
  48. ^ Min Jin Lee, "Wonder Woman: Love and Murder by Jodi Picoult" (review), The Times.
  49. ^ Min Jin Lee, "Low Tide", New York Times, February 26, 2012.
  50. ^ Min Jin Lee, "Up Front: After the Earthquake", Vogue, April 21, 2011.
  51. ^ Min Jin lee, Reading the World, http://minjinlee.com/images/uploads/Journal.pdf Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine
  52. ^ Min Jin Lee, "Why Star Chefs Revere Seiji Yamamoto".
  53. ^ Min Jin Lee, "Sex, Debt, and Revenge: Balzac’s Cousin Bette" Archived 2009-04-17 at the Wayback Machine, Barnes & Noble Review.
  54. ^ Min Jin Lee, "My Other Village: Middlemarch by George Eliot" Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine (excerpt).
  55. ^ Min Jin Lee, "Pay Yourself First", Moleskinerie.
  56. ^ Min Jin Lee, "Biblical Illiteracy or Reading the Bestseller".
  57. ^ Min Jin Lee, About the Author. Archived 2007-07-01 at the Wayback Machine
  58. ^ Hachette Book Group USA, Author: Min Jin Lee, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2007-07-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  59. ^ "2018 winners". Dayton Peace Prize. September 17, 2018. Retrieved September 18, 2018.

External links[edit]