A thrilling new story collection from acclaimed writer Don Lee exploring Asian American identity, spanning decades and continents
"Don Lee is one of those masterful storytellers who is both classic and modern, who can transport you into any setting, with any character."
—The TODAY Show, recommended by author Weike Wang
"The organizing conceit of all [Lee’s] fiction has remained consistent: Asian Americans are not monoliths . . . Lee narrates from a collective perspective, his stories offering a kaleidoscopic vision of all the ways it feels to be yellow."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Familiar joy is immediate as one reenters Lee’s signature worlds of brilliant resonance and quiet depth. In his first short story collection since his lauded Yellow debut, Lee again questions identity, unlikely relationships, and fleeting connections . . . While Lee' s devotees will joyfully relish casually dropped references to previous titles, new readers should savor plenty of first-time delight."
—Booklist, STARRED review
"The Partition is flat-out brilliant: a witty, kaleidoscopic tear through questions of race and identity in America today by a writer who has wrought luminous fiction from these issues for years. Don Lee's collection offers vivid, entertaining proof that ethnicity is never straightforward or easy—no matter who we are, or where we stand."
—Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
Twenty-one years after the publication of his landmark debut collection Yellow, Don Lee returns to the short story form for his sixth book, The Partition.
The Partition is an updated exploration of Asian American identity, this time with characters who are presumptive model minorities in the arts, academia, and media. Spanning decades, these nine novelistic stories traverse an array of cities, from Tokyo to Boston, Honolulu to El Paso, touching upon transient encounters in local bars, restaurants, and hotels.
Culminating in a three-story cycle about a Hollywood actor, The Partition incisively examines heartbreak, identity, family, and relationships—the characters searching for answers to universal questions: Where do I belong? How can I find love? What defines an authentic self?
"The Partition is a collection of tales of the universal dilemmas in being human. We are prisoners of our own subjective experience and that leads to having blind spots we didn't even know we had. The Partition may help us get out of our defensive crouch and enjoy the ride."
—New York Journal of Books
"The Partition once again finds Lee investigating the nature of Korean and Korean American identity, not to make pronouncements but to depict life in our complicated and often cruel world. That his characters endure and occasionally even thrive suggests something that’s hard not to feel upon finishing the book: that even in tough times, life is worth living, and that great stories are well worth reading."
"I cannot be more effusive in my praise for The Partition: this is a special book that is pure magic on several levels . . . This just might be one of the best story collections to come along in some time."
—Zachary Houle, for Medium
"Smart, sexy, and darkly funny."
—The Weekly Reader/WYPR, recommended by Marion Winik
"[Lee] transports readers around the world in this short story collection, which shines a light into the nooks and crannies of contemporary life and Asian American experiences . . . Illuminating."
—Shelf Awareness for Readers
"This collection of nine stories is a stunning and far-reaching exploration of Asian American identity. Award-winning writer Don Lee has been telling stories of Asian America for over two decades, and this latest book is yet another display of his craft and mastery."
—BookRiot, One of 12+ Great 2022 Short Story Collections by Asian Authors
"Gorgeous, psychological portraits of men and women caught in the throes of middle age. This smart collection about love and belonging will leave readers wanting more."
"Whatever you’re hiding from may find you in a Don Lee story. But this isn’t a warning. The Partition is, again and again, about Asian Americans in ways we don’t always admit we need, a collection about how we alternately cheat and show up for each other and ourselves. And the whole time, there’s a canny, shrewd love, guiding us the way through."
—Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
"I'm a huge Don Lee fan. He's smart, wry, funny. There’s also his humane view of humans, and the startling fairness with which he provides everyone’s point of view. I admire the graceful way his stories unfold, as if their pleats are intrinsic, once we stop to notice desire’s contradictions, and life’s wrinkles."
—Ann Beattie, author of A Wonderful Stroke of Luck
"Where would we be without the work of Don Lee? He is for so many of us our guiding light, the writer we look toward, emulate, and wish we were. Over the course of four novels and a story collection, he has not so much pushed the envelope but blasted it open and created anew the landscape of the Asian American experience with rigor, joy, hilarity, and the most generous of hearts. The Partition is storytelling at its finest and further proof of Lee's mastery—a stunning portrait of who we are now and where we’re going.""In the shockingly never-released-in-paperback Lonesome Lies Before Us, Don Lee wrote the anti-ethnic ethnic novel, where only a plate of food might hint at a character’s brownness. So in an about face, The Partition’s stories are packed with hapa haoles, gen 1.5s, and lots of where-are-you-from inquisitions. I loved the story ‘Late in the Day’ in which a filmmaker’s labor of love (itself an anti-ethnic ethnic film) is called out for using a biracial actor and instead takes a mercenary job as director of a short vanity film, only to see it picked up by PBS. Another of my favorites is ‘UFOs,’ where a television reporter takes two lovers, a married White guy and an earnest Korean American doctor who can spot her plastic surgery. Just about every story turns messy, and why should it be otherwise? The way these stories span decades and the tone of melancholy punctuated with humor make The Partition’s stories almost Alice Munro-esque. A worthy bookend to Lee’s first collection, Yellow, and here’s hoping it will be seen as similarly groundbreaking."
—Paul Yoon, author of Snow Hunters
—Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee, WI)
"I like honesty, direct but gracefully written, especially when characters can't help telling the truth and then wonder if they're wrong. Lee's collection of stories has exactly that. The main characters are Asian Americans of many ethnicities and experiences. They talk about their lives (and the nasty treatment they face routinely) with a confidence and wry humor that grabbed my attention. I wasn't in tune with the places and foods and some of the jargon, but it didn't matter. Lee made me believe in the people. I trusted him with the film director, college professor, chef, restaurant owners, TV news crew, and the man we meet during three stages of his life, from Tokyo teenager to B movie semi-star to later-life tea shop chain owner. Lee brings suspense and sudden, quirky surprises to their days and makes them true. I'm grateful for these flesh and blood nuances of living that lay stereotypes to waste. I enjoyed every minute!"
—Tim McCarthy, Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee, WI)
Praise for Don Lee:
“[A] frontal assault on matters of identity...[Lee] proves himself a worthy practitioner of realistic fiction in the vein of writers like Richard Yates and Andre Dubus. His narratives zip along, encapsulating whole lifetimes of intelligent men and women whose self-awareness is insufficient for the gauntlets they must run...It’s a tricky proposition to write about ethnicity and not crowd readers with right thinking. But Lee does it, and in the process proves that wondering about whether you’re a real American is as American as a big bowl of kimchi."
—New York Times Book Review
for Country of Origin:
“[An] engrossing first novel...about origins and destinations that succeeds rather effectively in dramatizing all sorts of questions about where we have come from and where we are going...A nicely textured travelogue of Tokyo’s underlife, all a swirl of action, a whirl of love and sex and race and politics, local and international."
for Wrack and Ruin:
“Masterly...Lee has outdone himself here. His prose moves and sparkles. He gives his characters a depth and thoroughness not commonly achieved by practitioners of the comic novel, a label that seems almost a disservice to a book as thoughtful as this one."
for The Collective:
"A fine prose stylist meditates on idealism and pragmatism in his novel of ambitious, young Asian American artists...Here, he credibly addresses the political and social concerns of a specific demographic, while also rendering a work that will feel relatable to nearly everyone who reads it."
—Time Out New York
for Lonesome Lies Before Us:
“Mr. Lee plucks familiar chords with a sure hand, glancing on themes of grief, jealousy and second chances...But what really stamps this book on the heart is Yadin's vulnerable spiritual journey from loneliness toward something like grace."
—Wall Street Journal