“Momma are We There Yet?” Korean Literature Bookstore Failure in Berkeley

language fail(With apologies to DUMBFOUNDEAD for stealing a title)

On the road for vacation and, as always, checking local bookstores for Korean literature. This time (as last time) I stopped in at Eastwind Books, whose motto is: Bookselling since 1982:  Asian American literature, Asian Studies, Ethnic Studies, Language Learning, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Martial Arts, Qigong, Children’s Books, Art Supplies. Eastwind sells new, used, and academic works, so I had high hopes of finding something that I could read while on vacation.

As I approach it, the front is friendly enough:

Eastwind Books Door

But these are ALL the books in the Korean section (The Green underline shows the section more clearly):


Korean Books


A grand total of 16 books in a store that holds thousands (to be fair, there was one book and hangul and one book on K-pop on the flat tables). And not one of them was translated fiction. There was no The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, no The Investigation, and even Please Look After Mom, which the computer claimed the store had, had gone missing.

The friendly clerk said, “Well, the owners are Chinese, so they don’t care that much [about Korean books].

Ugh…. if Korean books can’t be found here, I wonder what bookstores they can be found in.

2 thoughts on ““Momma are We There Yet?” Korean Literature Bookstore Failure in Berkeley

  1. I was able to order I’ll Be Right There online from another Berkeley shop, Pegasus, and pick it up in person. Anecdotally, some local library systems have copies of Please Look After Mom, and I saw a used copy once at Moe’s on Telegraph, which gathers quite a lot of new, remaindered, and used material. (I once bought a used copy of Ramsey’s reference grammar there, too, and a 1980s Dong-a K/E dictionary.) The local Half-Price Books location gets a fair percentage of award-winning titles remaindered after awhile. University Press Books carries some fiction, both translated and originally anglophone, and I would expect some “artsy” Korean fiction translated into English to turn up there.

    I have actually never set foot in Eastwind. hmm.

  2. Korean fiction is very, very difficult to sell.

    That is why Korean translations should focus on genre literature that is most likely to sell.

    South Korea should take advantage of its location next to an insane despot and translate any thrillers.

    Also, science fiction, mysteries, and romance.

    I as a micro-publisher would be interested in any translators willing to translate these types of works.

    Not high-brow literature, which will attract no readers.

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