On October 9, Choate Rosemary Hall welcomed author Catherine Chung as the Summer Reading Series speaker. Her novel, Forgotten Country, published by Riverhead Books in March 2012, won an Honorable Mention for the 2013 PEN/Hemingway Award. It was also picked for Booklist's Top 10 Debut Novels of 2012 and appeared on Bookpage's and The San Francisco Chronicle's Best Books of 2012 lists.
Chung's novel centers around two sisters, Janie and Hannah, as they navigate their roles as daughters in the face of loss. When their father is diagnosed with cancer, the sisters collide as each pursues a balance between loyalty to their family and their own individual freedom. The story is interwoven with Korean folklore and history, bringing to life a story of immigration, identity, duty, and family.
Introduced by Ellen O'Rourke '19 and Lily Ding '20, and interviewed by English teacher John Cobb, Chung answered questions from students about her personal writing process, the ways she weaves Korean folklore into her prose, the problematic nature of fairy tales, and how her writing has evolved. Many students were intrigued by the severity of Chung's characters and the dark tone of the story. Chung responded that stories take certain shapes because of the writer's outlook as the story is being written, noting that Forgotten Country would have evolved differently if she wrote it today.
Students joined Chung after the interview for a book signing in the afternoon.