Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (2016, translated from Korean in 2020)
Genre: Contemporary fiction, Asian literature
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is the fictionalized account of one Korean woman’s life, but filled with real-life examples and data about the state of gender equality in her country. The story-line centers on Kim Jiyoung, a housewife who begins to act as if possessed by various other people, prompting her husband to refer her to a psychiatrist. The narrative focuses on the everyday sexism Kim Jiyoung experiences from youth: from the way she and her sister were expected to share things so her little brother could have everything he wanted; through her early years watching her mother try to do odd jobs to supplement the family’s income; during her schoolgirl days when girls were expected to wait to use the cafeteria until the boys were done; as a young working woman who was expected to swallow sexual harassment and lower pay without a murmur; and later as a wife, forced by social pressure and a hostile work environment to become a stay-at-home mother. Eventually the postpartum depression and the sheer hopelessness of her situation prove too much for her and her mental health deteriorates alarmingly.
Content warnings (for the book): The main character suffers from psychotic episodes after having a child, when she will suddenly channel the voices of other women. The F-word is used as an epithet in 7 instances in the text, and the C-word spat by a man.