Writer-in-residence Jimin Han to share stories of healing in Brown Bag

In her forthcoming novel, The Apology, Jimin Han put herself in the story even though she’s not the main character. 

“This book is more autobiographical in some ways,” said Han, an author, educator and the Week One prose writer-in-residence for the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. “I’m going to talk about that (in my Brown Bag lecture) and how I managed my own family’s expectations of my novel.” 

The novel follows a 105-year-old Korean woman who returns to the United States in order to prevent a terrible tragedy from occurring in her family, Han said. And although the woman in the novel dies, Han said the book’s narrative continues.

“I wrote (The Apology) with a friend of mine who was diagnosed with a brain tumor — he died a year later, but we wrote together for that year,” she said. “He wrote a memoir and I wrote my novel, and we talked each week and shared pages. It was in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I ended up selling my book the same month he died.”

The Apology, set to release in 2023, comes after her 2017 literary success, A Small Revolution. This novel abandons a concrete timeline and uses removed narration to convey the resonating impact of revolutions, both big and small. A Small Revolution won a designation as the Pleiades Editors’ Choice and a spot on Entropy’s Best Fiction list in 2017. 

Han, who teaches at both Pace University and Sarah Lawrence College, will give a Chautauqua Literary Arts Brown Bag lecture titled “Story Is Healing” at 12:15 p.m. Friday, July 1, on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. Han will discuss writing The Apology, and how the grief surrounding the book’s origin played a role in its creation. 

“There’s a lot of talk about the role of art in difficult times,” she said. “We see in totalitarian regimes — art is the first thing that gets banned. Even in our country now, we’re seeing the banning of books everywhere. As writers, I feel like we’re always asking ourselves, ‘What do we do?’ So I have to say, writing The Apology was really helpful to me.”

Han said that with The Apology she knew she would venture into the territory of writing about her family in a fictional way. 

“I’m going to talk (in my lecture) about writing about life in some ways,” she said. “And I’m going to discuss using writing to deal with grief.”

Han attended Sarah Lawrence College for her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, and she said she encourages writers to look into attending MFA programs because of the sense of community they can bring.

“I think students should try their best to continue to think about what they can add to their literary community,” she said. “You’ll become part of it, and that will make it easier to get published, to help others who are behind you. Even on social media, if you share what you think about a book, that writer will be so grateful.”

Han, who grew up in Jamestown, New York, said simply the act of returning to the grounds of Chautauqua — the place where she had her high school graduation — is healing for her.

“It’s going to be really good for me to come back,” she said.

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The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.