I’m not surprised that Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, has everybody talking. The short novel, originally published in 2016, was recently translated into English.
Tracing Jiyoung’s life, you realise how ordinary this protagonist is. We find out about her friends, her family, her teachers and her colleagues. The people that she’s surrounded by and also let down by.
It shines a spotlight on the misogyny which has pervaded South Korean society. It explores gender equality and is grounded in shocking statistics. Yet, the story will resonate with women across the globe. For what it tells us, is true everywhere. The household and its chores are a woman’s domain.
Domesticity and housework feature throughout. It reminds us of this other pertinent gender gap – outside the workplace:
Since she became a full-time housewife, she often noticed that there was a polarised attitude regarding domestic labour. Some demeaned it as ‘bumming around the home’, while others glorified it as ‘work that sustains life’, but none tried to calculate its monetary value. Probably because the moment you put a price on something, someone has to pay.
The novel succeeds, where others fail. Perhaps that’s because the protagonist is a normal woman; worn down by society’s demands. Whether a grandmother, a mother or a daughter, something in this story will affect you.
Cho Nam-Joo’s work has already sold over a million copies across 19 countries. I hope that this well-crafted translation becomes a bestseller here too. Jiyoung’s story needs to be heard.