I’ve Got Questions for Ginger Park

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

The Hundred Choices Department Store by Ginger Park
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

The Hundred Choices Department Store, middle grade historical fiction. Regal House/Fitzroy Books. Pub date: March 25, 2022.

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

The book was inspired by my mother’s family who endured the Russian invasion of their hometown of Sinuiju in northern Korea prior to the outbreak of the Korean War. It’s 1944. The Pangs own a thriving department store that caters to wealthy Japanese clients. Meanwhile, thirteen-year-old Miyook Pang has spent two years serving in the war effort on behalf of Japan during the Japanese Occupation of her country. When she is sent to work at the dreaded dye factory, she meets an orphan boy who changes the course of her life.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

Children’s Historical Fiction

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

Two reviews (partials):

One from an author: “This story preserves some of Ginger Park’s family history and allows readers to connect with a time they’ve never lived in and experiences they’ve never lived through. Miyook’s story is one of perseverance, beauty, pain, and resilience. Child readers will see themselves in Miyook and will learn and grow from Miyook’s story. What a beautiful gift Ginger Park has given the world.”

And one from a reader: “I really marvel at how much happens here within a very short period of time, within just 99 pages, all while keeping good time, good pace. Nothing seems rushed. The storytelling is great, which gives Hundred Choices a tone of magical realism amidst grim historical fiction. It’s sad and angry, but that sadness and anger is also checked by the backdrop of the forgiveness and acceptance of Christianity, the magic of memories and moments, and carrying them alive as culture. I really love how the family was depicted, how they’re all affected by war (and religion) in very different ways, and how this culminates into a familial truth that is almost as difficult to accept and forgive as war.”

But my mother’s response ―tears of joy and heartbreak―told me I had done my job.

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

While my book was inspired by personal events in my mother’s life, her experience is both unique and universal evidenced by an incredibly moving book The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani. Both protagonists are young girls who must flee their homes due to war; both live in countries that will be divided into two countries (India and Pakistan, North Korea and South Korea); both take place in the 1940s.

  • Why this book? Why now?

This story had been in my mind for decades, tucked away in a vault of ideas. But inspiration to write the book came when I realized the time I had left with my aging mom was on a clock. Together we dove into the past, mom reliving and I chronicling her memories. The Hundred Choices Department Store release date is March 25, in honor of mom’s birthday. Mom passed away in 2019―she would have been 92.

I truly believe in timing and my book comes at a much-needed time in our world. I woke up to the tragic news of Russia invading Ukraine. Following World War II, Russian soldiers invaded my mother’s hometown of Sinuiju and in that moment, my mother’s family was fated to lose everything―their department store, but worse, each other. History is repeating itself. It’s heartbreaking. And with the pandemic and anti-Asian sentiment on the rise, the American people are in dire need of healing. It’s my hope that a child reads my book and learns about another time and place, of people who are very different, but similar, too, with hopes and dreams and love of family, and that all of this will extinguish any negative thoughts or influence in their communities or cyberspace.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

Cliff, I think you know the answer to this one―owning a chocolate shop! As a writer, I spend a large part of my life in my own thoughts. For over thirty-five years, my chocolate shop has allowed me to live in the real world and given me necessary balance―I drive into work thinking about the interesting conversations I’ll have with my beloved customers and the chocolates I’ll nibble on throughout the day. As I always say, it’s a sweet life.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

DCist reporter, Elliot Williams, who recently featured my book put it best: “The book plays with the idea that “small gestures are never forgotten,” and asks, “What would you risk for freedom?”

History is magnificent, but our magnifying glass is usually focused on famous historical figures. I hope my book prompts young (and adult) readers to delve into their own family tree―see what’s there. Undoubtedly, there are meaningful stories to discover.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

Foods galore! Here’s a taste of the book (pun intended!). Lentil pancakes, mandu pork dumplings, honey cookies. “Ajumah and I had spent the morning making yakgwa, flower-shaped honey cookies garnished with a trio of pine nuts, traditionally served during the holiday. The delicious smell of dough frying in oil made my mouth water.”

Most symbolic, however, are lemon candies. Read the book to learn more!

As for music, only one reference to an old Korean folk song: “Arirang,” a love ballad about a man’s travails as he journeyed through a northern mountain pass.

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

I just finished two middle grade mysteries―Frank Morelli’s Breaking News and Diana Renn’s Trouble at Turtle Pond. Both fabulous Fitzroy titles.

Waiting to receive my copies of your book Oliver’s Travels and Stephanie Vanderslice’s The Lost Son. Can’t wait!

Ginger Park

Learn more about Ginger on her website.

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Buy the book from the publisher (Regal House Publishing/Fitzroy), Politics & Prose Bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org.

About the author

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