[KS] "Memories of My Ghost Brother" Reissued

i_heinz fenkl fenkli at newpaltz.edu
Fri Dec 9 05:20:20 EST 2005

Dear List Members,
My book, "Memories of My Ghost Brother," has finally been reissued and is 
available again for those who want to use it in their courses. I've pasted the 
text of the press release below.

(Apologies if you get this twice. I forgot to enter a subject line last time.)


A Korean American Classic Reissued at Last!

by Heinz Insu Fenkl
Bo-Leaf Books (www.boleaf.com)
$19.95, 274p, trade paper
ISBN 0-975-8086-0-9

“My mother lies unconscious in the warm side of the room, dreaming of 
springtime in the old city of Seoul. She is walking along a palace wall, on an 
avenue white with fallen cherry blossoms. . . . Hearing a strange noise, she 
stops to listen. A giant serpent, thick as a pine tree, dangles its head from 
atop the palace gate and whispers to her in human speech, “I have something 
very important to tell you.” My mother takes a cautious step forward. But 
before the serpent can speak again, she returns to consciousness and, enduring 
the last contractions of her day-long labor, she gives birth to me.”


So begins this haunting and lyrical narrative that explores the coming of age 
of an Amerasian boy in Korea, torn between his mother’s world—haunted by the 
specter of Japanese occupations and ruled by the imperatives of the spirit 
kingdom—and his father’s transplanted America, the local U.S. army base where 
GIs are preparing for combat in another Asian nation, Vietnam. Young Insu 
grows up in the chaotic streets of Pupyong, among black marketeers, 
prostitutes, and their biracial children. Death comes daily to Pupyong—through 
cholera, murder, and fatal accidents, both sad and suspicious; its presence 
touches Insu’s life directly when his beloved aunt commits suicide after being 
cast off by her GI lover, and his friend James is found drowned in a sewer. 
(Neighborhood gossips accuse James’s mother, whose pursuit of a new blond 
husband would have been hampered by a half-black son.) Although life on the 
streets is brutal, and the American school Insu attends no better, his Korean 
family provides him with love and the nourishment of stories and laughter. 
Like his mother, Insu is attuned to the world of spirits, and he is haunted by 
the ghost figure of a young boy, a secret half-brother. When Insu learns the 
true identity of his ghost brother, he also makes a painful discovery about 
the corrosive prejudices that have torn his family apart.
         As an exploration of the Amerasian experience and the troubled legacy 
of the U.S. military presence in a country whose war was never officially 
over, Memories of My Ghost Brother is a milestone in contemporary literature. 
With its ghost stories, folktales, mother-father conflicts, strange joys, and 
violent tragedies, Memories of My Ghost Brother recalls such classics as Jerzy 
Kosinski’s The Painted Bird and Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. 
Evocative and compelling, this magnificent work by a gifted writer captures 
the mystery, beauty, pain, and lost history of a young boy’s world.


  “[U]nsparing....an intimate look at a volatile, rarely glimpsed landscape.”
—The New Yorker

  “...stately, mature and understated...written with great sensitivity and 
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“What makes this . . . so seductive is Heinz Insu Fenkl’s marvelous 
storytelling—his brutally honest tale of an interstitial childhood spent 
between two worlds. . .a cut above the rest in the current literary trend of 
Asian American memoirs.”
—Helen Mitsios, Book World

“Think...of James Agee’s A Death in the Family:...equally lyrical, dreamy, and 

“Heinz Insu Fenkl’s Memories of My Ghost Brother is a wonderfully lyrical and 
evocative portrait of an extraordinary cultural no-man’s land, an area fully 
claimed by no one’s history. This landscape may seem to be surreal, but it is 
all too human.”
—Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls’ Rising

“Heinz Insu Fenkl weaves a garment of dense magic and power which the reader 
dons at his/her own risk. To wear it is to be plunged headlong into a vast, 
precise universe, hitherto unknown, the world of a half Korean, half German 
child. The voyage is stunning.”
—Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan

“Memories of My Ghost Brother is luminous, subtle, and eminently readable—a 
pleasure. I detect the ghost brushstrokes of Joan Didion and—to borrow a 
comparison from the world of film—Renoir. I read the novel all the way through 
at once and marveled at its poetry.”
—Indira Ganesan, author of The Journey

I was reminded of James Joyce, especially Dubliners—there’s a similar 
mysterious, half-concealed, symbolic, poetic quality about the two. Besides 
the way language is used, there’s also something about the way an entire 
cultural world—or microcosm—has been consumed, digested, and recreated just 
so; it gives the prose a pregnant quality, as though it is working its way 
around—or as though its path naturally takes it just around—the edge of 
something great and sinister...and the reader’s eyes are fixed on the path and 
he catches glimpses of this something out of the corners of his eyes....
—Matthew Broersma, author of Insomnia

“Vivid, powerful writing...a compelling and poetic portrait of the Amerasian 
experience in reconstructionist South Korea.”
—The San Francisco Review of Books


Heinz Insu Fenkl left Korea when he was twelve. His family eventually settled 
in Castroville, California. An award-winning writer and translator, and a 
former Fulbright Scholar in Korea, he now teaches creative writing and Asian 
literature at the State University of New York in New Paltz. He lives in the 
Hudson Valley with his wife and daughter.

Memories of My Ghost Brother was selected by Barnes & Noble as a “Discover 
Great New Writers” book and was featured with a starred review in Publisher’s
Weekly. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award in 1996. A Korean 
translation is now also available.

For those interested in using the book in their courses, teaching guides 
(including a glossary and two supplementary essays) are available from the 
author’s website. Go to the “links” page at www.boleaf.com.

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