Seoul Food is a compilation of short stories written about the lives of Korean Americans living in Los Angeles County–the Mecca for diversity of cultures. Targeting a young adult readership, Seoul Food captures snapshots of Korean lifestyles as well as an inherent, sometimes shameful, dysfunctional family dynamics created by the disconnect between Korean-born parents and their American-born children.

Stories of Korean Americans’ private experiences may go unnoticed or their lives may be misinterpreted. Most often, media portray Koreans as the model minority. Seoul Food wittingly and subtly unpacks these perceptions with candidness and humor that will cause readers to rethink their assumptions.

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Three Parts Make One Beautiful Book

Part 1. Pojagi

Pojagi is variously-shaped multicolored squares of linen that seamlessly and other times awkwardly stitch together to form a larger piece of material. The vignettes in Part 1 are about my experience as a Korean American born and raised in Los Angeles County. I reflect on my family, community, personal, and educational experiences that have shaped my identity as a Korean-American.

Part 2. Bibimbap and Banchan

Bibimbap is mixed rice and banchans are side dishes people share when they eat during Korean meals. The vignettes in Part 2 unpack the misconceptions and stereotypes of Korean Americans. In addition, the stories highlight the lifestyles of young Korean Americans whose experiences may go unnoticed.

Part 3. Jeon

Jeon is a pancake-like dish made from a variety of vegetables, meats, and seafood. In Part 3, I provide a closer glimpse of my identity and my reflections looking back on my yesteryears. The vignettes provide glimpses of how I came to be and the transformational journey I went through to become the person I am today.

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Seoul Food

  • Seoul Food is the first non-fiction book that captures the lives of Korean Americans living in Los Angeles.
  • Seoul Food is a coming of age book that embeds wisdom and answers to the complexities of being Korean American.
  • Seoul Food stories interweave thought provoking human concepts and answers to restore my soul and, through the process of storytelling, help others heal from their similar past wounds.

Sample Vignette Summaries

Vignette 3: Working in the Hood

This story is written from the lens of when I was a young girl observing my father work in Los Angeles and experiencing the L.A. Riots in 1992 that affected our family’s financial stability. The story then transitions to my father who was beaten, similar to Rodney King, and despite no one helping him, he chose to live and move on rather than die.

Vignette 16: Lee Suh Bin

Lee Suh Bin (“Lesbian”) is a story about a Korean female friend I had in school. I was unaware at the time, but I discovered later that she was a closet lesbian. I write about how homosexuality is not talked about and being a Korean lesbian/gay is taboo in the Korean culture.

Vignette 9: Other People’s Banchans

Other People’s Banchans encompasses three shorter vignettes. Rich Banchan is about Korean men who pay or do not pay for meals. After having conversations with my parents, I learn being rich goes beyond having money. Insecure Banchans provides a glimpse into the lives of Korean Americans and their relationship with their parents that are not addressed in public. Ka-Shi Banchan is a short vignette but has multiple complexities to illustrate how ka-shi (fish bones or past pain) can damage people’s lives.

Vignette 18: There’s Still More

This story is about Jenna, a high achieving student who focused on attending a top university. Her intensity and drive in school damaged her sleep schedule and food intake. In the end, she attended a top university, but she was burned out by the time she went to college. This story is important to include because many Koreans seek to attend most prestigious colleges and discover this end goal was not what life was about.

Vignette 10: Mama’s Boy

The stories in this vignette illustrate how parents may not know their children and not engage in healthy relationships with them. As a result, their children experience family, cultural, and educational pressures that affect their psychological, emotional, and personal well-being. The story then transitions to Stephen, a mama’s boy who was loved by his overbearing mother. Being a Korean mama’s boy is a common yet less acknowledged problem in the realm of unhealthy parent-child interactions.

Vignette 19: Blepharoplasty

Having double eyelid and big eyes is a dream many Korean females desire. My mom naturally received a double fold on her eyelid in her twenties and informed me that I would naturally get a crease above my eyes when I aged. Though I couldn’t wait, I write about my personal experience trying to get double eyelids by using tape and glue in high school. After my unsuccessful attempts, I chose to wait.



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Sarai Koo Ph.D. is an energetic, well-rounded individual who has extensive educational, life, and practical experience to solve deep-seated human problems.  She is a motivational speaker, researcher, educator, and community leader who prepares the next generation for success.  Sarai founded and is the current CEO of MAPS 4 College, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that helps students graduate from high school, attend and graduate from college, gain job readiness skills, find a satisfying career, and acquire life sustaining skills.



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