The all-American A novel

Joe Milan

Book - 2023

"A debut novel grappling with contested American identity, masculinity, and deportation, told in one of the most memorable adolescent voices in contemporary literature"--

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New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company [2023]
Main Author
Joe Milan (author)
First edition
Physical Description
309 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Uncle Rick was supposed to be in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt when Bucky and brother Bobby are sent by mom Sheryl to deliver burnt brownies. Instead, Unc is busy robbing a car dealership, but it's Bucky who gets stuck with life-altering consequences. Turns out Bucky's immigration paperwork was never finalized when Bucky's Korean bio-father abandoned Sheryl. Instead of finishing senior year and playing football, Bucky's being deported to Seoul with a name he can't even pronounce. Somehow, he's gotta get back home, but not before he's conscripted by the South Korean military (every Korean male citizen--because Yi Byeonghak is that--must serve two years) and shipped to a remote island to trap thieving monsters. Second-generation Korean American Milan Jr.'s debut novel is poised to induce whiplash for all its corkscrew agility (don't miss his Easter-egged name). Amid the uncomfortable laughter, Milan confronts transracial identity, societal roles chosen and forced, limits of language, "good" and "bad" mutability, and the porousness of truth and lies. Pair with Alice Stephens' Famous Adopted People (2018) for additional (disturbing) gratification.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A Korean American teen is deported to his birth country in Milan's stark debut. Aspiring football player Bucky, who was born in South Korea, was raised by his stepmom in Tibicut, Wash., after his Korean father abandoned him there as a small child and his mother died. When Bucky's uncle robs a car dealership, Bucky tries to intervene but is arrested. The police then uncover an error in his citizenship documents, and he's deported to South Korea. Unable to even say his birth name of Yi Beyonghak let alone speak Korean, he works as a barback and searches in vain for his father. After a few months, he is granted permission to return to the U.S., but is pressed into South Korean military service before he can leave. During his grueling basic training, he's hazed by other conscripts, only one of whom will talk to him, the geeky Chong Junho. Bucky figures out from garnishes on his paycheck that his father has taken out massive loans in his name, and after being caught sneaking into a superior's office to call his stepmother for help, he and Junho are dispatched to a remote island. The setup is convincingly Kafkaesque (if devoid of absurd humor), and Milan skillfully captures Bucky's increasing disorientation. This is a memorable riff on identity. (Apr.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A teenager in rural Washington gets tangled up in his South Korean roots. Bucky, the narrator, runs more than his fair share of high school hurdles. He's a perpetual outsider, one of three Asians at his school, including a Korean American classmate named Chantal who keeps flipping him the bird. His birth mother died in South Korea. He's living in a trailer home with his White American stepmom, Sheryl. She had married Bucky's Korean birth father, but he later abandoned them. The boy has just had his hopes of a college football scholarship dashed when his Uncle Rick's failed suicide attempt soon leads to a shooting incident that lands Bucky in jail facing policemen who suspect him of terrorism. They discover that he's undocumented thanks to his father's misfiled immigration documents and a bounced check. After some time in a detention center, where he must refer to himself as Bed Forty-Two, he's flown to South Korea. He doesn't speak the language, so he's still a fish out of water. He learns that he's officially a Korean citizen and faces another fresh hell: mandatory military service in his new homeland. Bucky is clever but impetuous and tends to handle challenges as if it's third and goal, charging forward with head down, legs churning. Milan throws a lot at him, putting him through the seven stages of grief as his old life fades away and he's pulled deeper into an ugly tale of by-the-book repatriation. Bucky could end up in the DMZ. It's dark stuff, but Milan sustains in his narrator an amusingly bewildered, blundering, bumptious voice along with a leavening sense of absurdity. There are echoes here of Heller's Yossarian and even of the 1966 film The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. An unusual take on undocumented immigration that makes for a strong debut. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.