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Penguin: Adult Hardcover & Trade Paperback Summer 2019

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East Goes West
By (author): Younghill Kang Foreword by: Alexander Chee Afterword by: Sunyoung Lee Notes by: Sunyoung Lee
9780143134305 Paperback, Trade English General Trade FICTION / Asian American May 21, 2019
$24.00 CAD
Active 5.12 x 7.77 x 0.78 in 432 pages Penguin Classics
“A wonderfully resplendent evocation of a newcomer’s America” (Chang-rae Lee, author of Native Speaker) by the father of Korean American literature

Having fled Japanese-occupied Korea for the gleaming promise of the United States with nothing but four dollars and a suitcase full of Shakespeare to his name, the young, idealistic Chungpa Han arrives in a New York teeming with expatriates, businessmen, students, scholars, and indigents. Struggling to support his studies, he travels throughout the United States and Canada, becoming by turns a traveling salesman, a domestic worker, and a farmer, and observing along the way the idealism, greed, and shifting values of the industrializing twentieth century. Part picaresque adventure, part shrewd social commentary, East Goes West casts a sharply satirical eye on the demands and perils of assimilation. It is a masterpiece not only of Asian American literature but also of American literature.

PIONEERING KOREAN AMERICAN NOVEL by the author known as “the father of Korean American literature”


A MASTERPIECE: Not only a great Asian American novel but also a great American novel, East Goes West has been compared to the work of Whitman and Nabokov, was edited by the legendary Maxwell Perkins, was admired in its day by the likes of Pearl S. Buck, Thomas Wolfe, Rebecca West, and H. G. Wells, and is admired today by the likes of Chang-rae Lee, Alexander Chee, and Min Jin Lee.

ONE OF FOUR NEW ASIAN AMERICAN TITLES in Penguin Classics, the others being Filipino American Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart (9780143134039), Chinese American H. T. Tsiang’s The Hanging On Union Square (9780143134022), and Japanese American John Okada’s No-No Boy (9780143134015).


NEW FOREWORD BY BESTSELLING NOVELIST and acclaimed Korean American essayist Alexander Chee, who has 45,000+ followers on Twitter.

ASIAN AMERICAN MOMENT: Witness the success of Crazy Rich Asians, and also the controversy over Harvard’s alleged discrimination against Asian American applicants, which has recast “the model minority” as “the overlooked minority.”

INCLUDES AN AFTERWORD, CHRONOLOGY, BIBLIOGRAPHY, AND NOTES that illuminate the details of Kang’s life and work


Younghill Kang (1903-1972) was born in what is now North Korea and emigrated to the U.S. in his late teens. He studied at Boston University and Harvard and published widely in such outlets as The New York Times and The Nation. While teaching English at New York University, he was introduced by fellow professor Thomas Wolfe to legendary Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins, who would publish Kang’s books. Kang was the first Asian to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship; he would be awarded two in his lifetime, among his many other honors.

Alexander Chee (foreword) is the bestselling author of the novels The Queen of the Night and Edinburgh and the essay collection How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. His work has appeared in The Best American Essays 2016 and The New York Times, and he is a contributing editor at The New Republic. The winner of a Whiting Award, he is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College. He lives in New York City.

Sunyoung Lee (afterword, notes) is the publisher and editor in chief of Kaya Press, which specializes in literature from the Asian and Pacific Island diasporas. She lives in Los Angeles.

Marketing: Social media and online promotion on Penguin Classics channels

Penguin Classics and PRH email newsletter promotion

Academic marketing and library promotions

Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Publicity: Print and online reviews and features

Media tied to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Author Social Media: Twitter: @AlexanderChee; Instagram: @CheeMobile; Facebook: Alexander Chee (foreword)

“A Nabokovian stylistic tour de force.” —Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night and How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

“The story of Chungpa Han is truly, like the old New York he encounters, as ‘million-hued as a dream.’ A wonderfully resplendent evocation of a newcomer’s America, Younghill Kang’s classic novel is as vibrant and pointed in its vision today as it was 60 years ago, and may prove to be one of our most vital documents. East Goes West deserves rediscovery.” —Chang-rae Lee, author of Native Speaker

“Kang is as wide awake and high-spirited as he is scholarly and thoughtful, and he writes with a keen sense of character…. East Goes West offers a rich largesse of color and flavor, personality and impression and event. It is one of those rare books which will arouse interest, ring changes on laughter and leave its residue of thought.” —The New York Times Book Review 

“An immigrant epic that criss-crosses a less-than-welcoming American landscape… Thirty-year-old bestseller The Joy Luck Club perennially provides irrefutable proof Asian American stories warrant shelf space. That Penguin Classics—their venerable list considered a significant barometer of what comprises the Anglophone literary canon—has added this…is, undoubtedly, long-awaited, long-deserved recognition.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“Kang is a born writer, everywhere he is free and vigorous: he has an original and poetic mind, and he loves life.” —Thomas Wolfe

“After Mr. Kang, most books seem a bit flat…. What a man! What a writer!” —Rebecca West

“Here is a really great writer.” —H. G. Wells

“[Kang is] the father of Korean American literature…. East Goes West is a stunning testament to [his] indomitable spirit, his perspicacious eye, and his special mirth. The book provides us with a rare view of how urban American life was experienced—and critiqued—by Korean immigrants in the 1920s. Sunyoung Lee’s afterword…offers original insights into what she calls Kang’s ‘acrobatic talent for mediation’ between ‘the faltering traditions of…Korea and the seductive promise of American modernity.’” —Elaine Kim, co-author of East to America: Korean American Life Stories

“Whitmanesque in scope,Younghill Kang’s East Goes West attempts both self-realization and comprehension of all of America. But an undercurrent of sadness haunts this story of a young man’s heroic American odyssey—the sadness of ‘exiled’ Korean men stranded between two worlds, living out their lonely lives on the periphery of American society, working in menial jobs far beneath their education.” —Kichung Kim, author of An Introduction to Classical Korean Literature 

“Unique and vividly realized…In its portrait of a young man’s fracturing idealism, it is also an extraordinary, if coded, critique of American materialism.” —Sunyoung Lee, from the Afterword

“Groundbreaking and inspirational…A call to action, a call for the country to live up to the dream it has of itself…This book is for all of us.” —Alexander Chee, from the Foreword

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