Bookish Bitchin: Miles From Nowhere

Alert, dear readers!

We’re trying a new thing here at BCB, where we plug (and actually read!) a book every month or so, in our attempt to promote API and other great lit, and of course dispense our unsolicited opinion to the 17 people who read this blog.

Minus the child. Double the excitement.

I do realize the “Celebrities Are Just Like Us!” section of OK! Magazine and serials from the Young Adult section of the public library may not really count as “literature” per se, but nonetheless this is a challenge I personally am up for, especially since I’m hoping it’ll help me stay indoors and not blow my money on Forever 21 joorees and cheap booze (or I can buy even cheaper booze to drink in my room. Don’t judge. Whiskey just goes naturally with the written word, boors).

AZN kicked it off last month with his review of Lac Su’s powerful I Love Yous Are For White People. I recently read a book that was also  published in 2009: Nami Mun’s Miles From Nowhere.

Joon is a teenage runaway born in South Korea and relocated to Bronx in the 1980s, where her father’s absence and her mother’s mental instability cause her to leave home at the age of 13. Like all self-absorbed New Yorkers, I like books about New York. The protagonist gets into a cornucopia of depressing shit all over the city, so I immediately took to it.

New York in the ’80s was a gritty, scary place, and I definitely felt this through Joon’s experiences. Over the course of five years, she hops from homeless shelter to hotel room to flophouse —  as an escort girl, Avon lady, nursing home aide, and petty thief, all the while nursing a heavy drug habit and a tendency to hang around folks inhabiting similar brutal and dangerous realities. The book reads stark, bleak, and at times disheartening, but Mun’s graceful use of language is haunting and beautiful without being sentimental.

Miles From Nowhere is an extremely engaging and easy read, though I had to take several breaks because it was so emotionally intense at times (I almost couldn’t finish the excerpt where Joon allowed her boyfriend to cut her shoulder blades open to the bone with a razor blade while they were high on dust). And don’t expect a chicken-soup-for-the-soul ending.

Nami Mun

I don’t know much about the author aside from the standard bio, but with some of the similarities (Mun grew up in the Bronx and worked as an Avon Lady and in a nursing home), I’m interested in how much of the novel may be autobiographical.

All in all, I highly recommend this book for the exquisite writing alone…it’s easy to see why Mun was named a “Best New Novelist” by Chicago  Magazine and Miles From Nowhere received a Whiting Award. Just make sure you’re not in a funky mood or recovering from a bad spell when you crack that baby open.

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4 thoughts on “Bookish Bitchin: Miles From Nowhere

  1. I’m one of the 17 who reads your blog (and I hope you’re one of the five people on mine), and I concur with your opinion–it’s an awesome read. The description is so raw. Nami Mun hit on some pretty profound human truths with her fiction. She deserves all the accolades she gets.

    Kartika just did an interview with her. Check it out here. I also blogged about this book with links to some other interviews with her here.

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    • Hi guys–

      I finished “Miles From Nowhere” a couple weeks ago, and WOW. I _love_ Mun’s writing, it is top-notch. She did a great job describing the lifestyle of the young street junkie without romanticizing it, but also not fetishizing the misery. My favorite parts were when she was describing her mother. That was when her style of bluntly describing the beauty intermingled with the misery and insanity really shone the brightest.

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  2. Thanks for yr thoughts Julie! I also gave the book to one of my friends and we were just talking today about how lovely (and intense) the book is. If you’re in the nyc area, Nami Mun will be giving a reading on 3/25 at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. And if we get our shit together, BCB will have another book recommendation for you in March…

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