According to my life path number 3, I was destined to write (that is if you believe in numerology and I do). But as a youngster, I was an athlete, a gymnast with boundless energy, spending most of my time upside down, turning cartwheels and doing backflips – I was too carefree to tap into my creative side.
That all changed on my seventeenth birthday, two days after my father’s untimely death. Call it a gut-wrenching aha moment, a reflective day of tearful soul-searching when I realized that I knew very little about my parents – their lives and dreams growing up in Korea, their struggles to survive in a world of war, oppression, and life shattering events.
For the next few months, I was fretful, clinging to my mother, yearning to know her life story as well as my father’s, fearing our time together was like sand in an hourglass. Night after night, we stayed up late sifting through old photos as my mother shared anecdotal events of the homeland. I was mesmerized, listening, interpreting, and ultimately crafting my art while documenting my family’s rich past that spanned the Korean peninsula from the northern port city of Sinuiju to the capital city of Seoul.
And, so, began my writing journey.
While I never followed in my father’s Harvard footsteps, writing books and owning a boutique chocolate shop in the heart of downtown Washington, DC have been my true education. Yes, Books and Chocolate. As writer and entrepreneur, I’ve built a sweet life, surviving and thriving in an uncertain world.
I’ve written a delicious chocolate memoir and a cookbook for allergy sufferers as well as some whimsical picture books such as Where on Earth Is My Bagel? and The Have a Good Day Café. Do you see a theme here? Yes, I’m a foodie at heart! But it is the books inspired by my parents’ experiences growing up in Japanese occupied Korea, enduring the Russian invasion of their homeland and the Korean War, that have deeper meaning, bring a tragic yet vibrant world back to life.
Sadly, my mother passed away in 2019, but like my father, she lives on through my books, which have garnered many accolades including the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award, Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, The Joan G. Sugarman Children’s Book Award, Outstanding Merit, Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College, Parents’ Choice Award, A Junior Library Guild Selection, IRA-CBC Teachers’ Choice Award, and NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book For Young People Children’s Book Award.
My books have been published by National Geographic, Boyds Mills & Kane, Hyperion, Lee & Low, St. Martin’s Press, and Thomas Dunne.
I’m honored to add Regal House Publishing to the list with the publication of my latest work The Hundred Choices Department Store. Set in Sinuiju, Korea, this historical novel is inspired by my mother’s remembrances of her family’s painful struggles during the Russian invasion of their hometown and ultimate flight south, across the 38th parallel to Seoul, just prior to the outbreak of the Korean War.
When I’m not writing or spending treasured time with my human and fur baby family, I’m usually at my shop, behind the counter ‘breaking chocolate’ with my beloved customers. My shop motto: There’s a chocolate for every mood. But for me it’s always something dark and earthy that lingers on the tongue long after the chocolate has melted.