Native Speaker | Granta

Native Speaker

Chang-rae Lee

Native Speaker is a story about a detective. It is also a wise and compassionate novel about the immigrant experience, about love, loyalty and the languages that define us.

  • Published: 18/06/1998
  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781862071148
  • 130x20mm, 324 pages

What makes Native Speaker an important novel is no more complicated than this: it tells us the truth. Lee writes in a voice free of political bias about race fears... He writers of the fear of dilution, or self-loss... After so much racist posing, so much false restraint, Native speaker seems like a new kind of novel, the plainsong of unassimilated man, and in the murmur of his nascent voice is the soft clash of borders.

Literary Review

The book is a wonder

New Statesman

The prose style is simple, but this is a far from simple book. Notionally a detective story, it is really a study of a particular type of personality: secretive, suspicious, watchful. The cool delivery masks an alert and vibrant intelligence. Beautifully done.

Daily Telegraph

The Author

Chang-Rae Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1965, and emigrated to the United States when he was three. He was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, Yale and the University of Oregon. His first novel, Native Speaker, won the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Novel and the American Book Award. His work has appeared in The Best American Essays, the New Yorker, the New York Times and numerous anthologies. After the publication of his second novel, A Gesture Life, Lee was named by the New Yorker as one of the twenty best authors under forty in the USA. Lee is the author of two further novels, Aloft and The Surrendered, and is Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton Universty.

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From the Same Author

A Gesture Life

Franklin Hata, Korean by birth but raised in Japan, is an outsider in American society, but he embodies the values of the town he calls his own – he is polite and keeps himself to himself. Franklin deflects everyone with courtesy and impenetrable decorum, and becomes a respected elder of his small, prosperous American town. ‘You make a whole life out of gestures and politeness,’ Sunny tells her adoptive father. But as Sunny tries to unpick her father’s scrupulous self-control, the story he has repressed emerges: his life as a medic in the Japanese Army and his love for a Korean woman forced into sexual service for the troops. This is a compelling novel, told in Franklin’s own careful, measured words as he struggles to reconcile the propriety of his current life with the tragedies of the past. Building on the success of the award-winning Native Speaker, A Gesture Life established Lee as a unique and powerful voice in American fiction.

Chang-rae Lee on Granta.com

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

My Low Korean Master

Chang-rae Lee

’I wondered, too, whether he was suffering inside, whether he sometimes cried, as I did, for reasons unknown.‘