I just finished reading this wonderful novel, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. A historical novel following a Korean family through several generations. What makes this novel so special, are the female main characters. The male characters while colorfully drawn and important are somewhat ancillary to the main arc of the story.
The novel follows the family through several centuries starting in the early 1900’s and ending in present day. It essentially is a celebration of hardworking, mostly very poor women overcoming incredible odds in a time period where their stories are usually silent.
When asked why she wrote this novel, Ms Lee said:
“Conventional beauty takes time, money and effort, and is expensive for all women, but it is cruelly so for women without resources. I wanted to write about the women on the subway or waiting for the bus in the winter wearing a threadbare winter coat, or the woman who works as a cashier at an H-Mart who are too heavy, or too wrinkled or grey-haired or improperly dressed by the standards of television or movies…I am interested in the physicality of women who live their daily struggles with integrity; their beauty captivates those who know them.” (Pachinko, 1249)
In a society where there’s filters for every selfie and Instagram influencers cultivate their feeds to appeal to a certain demographic we are in danger of becoming inundated and eventually inured to the influence such things wield over our perception of beauty. Perfection is not beauty. Perfection is either a myth or a lie. Either way it’s not something to strive for as it is ever elusive and always a hollow false victory.
This past week I was introduced, as was much of the country I suspect, to an accomplished and unique young woman. She is Amanda Gorman, the Youth Poet Laureate of the United States and she was selected to both write and recite the Inaugural Poem at President Biden’s Inauguration. I was so moved by her performance, and her words. Was the performance perfect, no, but she was powerful and true, standing up there, giving her heart to us though her words.
We should make every effort to see the beauty in the imperfection of moments, things, people. It’s what makes us different, it’s what makes us stronger and that’s definitely worth celebrating.