Strong Feelings

Faith, Loss, and Fiction with R.O. Kwon

Episode Summary

What’s it like to spend a decade working on your first novel, become a bestselling author, and still have the first thing people say about you be that you’re “adorable”? We talk with Korean American writer R.O Kwon to find out.

Episode Notes

What’s it like to spend a decade working on your first novel, become a bestselling author, and still have the first thing people say about you be that you’re “adorable”? We talk with Korean American writer R.O. Kwon to find out.

R.O. is best known for her 2018 novel, The Incendiaries. It’s a story about young love, religious fundamentalism, violent extremism, and coming to terms with the loss of faith. It was named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Atlantic, Bustle, Buzzfeed, the BBC, and a bunch other outlets—and it’s finally out in paperback this week.

It was a dream to talk with R.O. about finding massive success after working on her book for 10 years, loving literature she couldn’t see herself in, and why we all need to stop calling Asian women “cute.”

I was desperately in love with an art form—literature—in which I physically could not and did not exist… the books I had around the house that I loved and still love were Henry James and Jane Austin and Edith Wharton. All these books by very dead people in a world in which—if I were ever to appear in, say, Edith Wharton’s world—I couldn’t have even gone into the rooms where things are happening. Nobody would have talked to me. At best, I might have been a circus attraction.
—R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries

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