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Ordinary women managing on their own

Posted February. 05, 2022 07:16,   

Updated February. 05, 2022 07:16


All the protagonists of the seven short stories in the book are biological women. The stories depict a mother playing a game covering for her son, a wife coming out to her pastor husband, who has extramarital affairs, and a middle-aged single woman, who takes care of her old mother diagnosed with dementia. All of the seven stories deal with women, who face similar contradictions in different situations as they experience their own distinctiveness in life as well as the universality of women.

The old discourses that have dominated women’s lives appear in the novel, including maternal ideology, patriarchy, misogyny, sexual objectification of women, and care labor. It shows in detail how women are crushed and broken by deep-rooted sexist systems and perceptions.

That does not mean women remain as victims. They struggle against the unfair reality but never succumb to it mentally. They may compromise physically, but keep their mind straight and protect themselves from countless attacks.

Maybe that is why the women in the novels are both realistic and ideal, and pathetic and beautiful.

Men, who have taken the center stage in most of the stories, remain as peripheral characters in these novels. They appear in the stories as a husband, son, lover and friend, wielding weapons in ways such as forcing women to keep their chastity and develop maternal instinct. But they cannot make women give in mentally.

The author is aware that the absurdity facing women cannot be resolved easily. But she frankly expresses the feelings and thoughts she had while fighting against it. With her decisive yet humorous writing style, the author spares readers from feeling heavy about the situation the female protagonists are in.

Since her debut in 2015, Park Seo-ryeon has constantly written about stories on women. She has portrayed how women and minorities, such as labor activists and victims of sexual violence, defend their freedom and conscience against the world. This is the first collection of her novels published over the past seven years. Park says she writes in order not to forget the feeling of being a minority and a loser. She won the Young Writers’ Award last year for the title work of the book, “The Game Your Mother is Better at Than You.”

Ji-Hoon Lee easyhoon@donga.com