A blog raveled in randomness
Kyung-Suk Shin’s Please Look After Mom is a wonderful book that I would like to recommend to people who seek a beautiful and warming story regarding to motherly love. I always thought of my mother as a mother, meaning that she was born as a mother and she will always be a mother who stays strong. However, reading this book opened my eyes to see my mother not as a mother but as an individual–a person who also had a mother, took her first steps, said her first words, went to school/university, etc. It is such an obvious thing, but how could I have missed this fact?
I had the chance to see the author at my university. Though the translations between Korean and English were not as smooth as I expected, I understood what the author was trying to get across to her audience. When Kyung-Suk Shin was sixteen, she took a night train to Seoul Station with her mother, and even then she knew she wanted to be an author in the future. It was her first time going to a big urban city, so she was excited and confused by the enormous change in her life. Then she saw her mother’s face in Seoul, a worried sad face. That was the moment when Kyung-Suk Shin wanted to write a book dedicated to her beautiful mother. However, it took about 25 years to write this book. It was after a few novels and short story collections that she was able to write Please Look After Mom. And like many authors in progress of writing wonderful novel, she had trouble writing the novel. Her sixteen year old self saw her mother as a strong person who never loses a fight, but her present self reflected on her mother and saw sadness, weakness, and regret. The image of her mother was not all pretty and beautiful. With the promise she made at sixteen, she wanted to write a beautiful book dedicated to her mother. But this conflict between two different images of her mother made it a difficult process.
In the end, she was able finish writing the novel that was written in Korean in 2009 and now being sold worldwide. It won the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2011 and was featured in New York Time Bestsellers. Showing various sides of motherhood (strong, caring, weak, vulnerable, etc.), she wrote four different perspectives within the family. The author believed that showing just one side/perspective to talk about a mother was insufficient. Furthermore, the author titled the book with the word “mom” and not “mother”. She believed that the word “mom” created a vulnerable air of care and love. Through this novel, Kyung-Suk Shin furthur share with us that she was able to think about her mother in the present and in the past. The memory and her reflections did not consist only of beautiful happy pictures, but also sad regretful moments in life.
The final page of the novel is open-ended. Kyung-Suk Shin told us that she had to leave the novel with an open-ended question because this is a story that should be produced not only by the author but by the readers also. A novel, in her opinion, is a question and not an answer. The answer is found by the readers who think and reflect on the questions provided within the novel. So she had to leave the ending as a question: Who is “mom”? Who will look after “mom”?
I was happy to attend her book talk yesterday, and I was glad to have listened to her thoughts on her own book. I was able to get my copy of the book signed in Korean (yay!) and took a photo with her. This is a memory that I would like to keep in my heart. One day, I will become a mother. I would have to take care of someone, and as Kyung-Suk Shin said, I might be reluctant to this transition. I might not want to be a mother when the time comes. So Kyung-Suk Shin wanted her readers to think about this book when the time comes and to make the right choice. Mom is a wonderful word full of love and sadness. It was a role that had created our present society; it is a role that must exist in our society; and it is a role that continues to sustain our future.
Mom, someone who we often think as if it is given to us. Mom, someone who we often forget that she was an individual with a childhood and hopeful dreams. Mom, someone who gave life to us. Mom, someone who is a part of us. Mom, I love you.