In 2018, I was awarded the senior first prize of the Adrian Van Sinderen Book Collecting Prizes at Yale University. Below is a short description I wrote then on my multi-genre book collection titled “Contemporary Voices of South Korean Women in Light of the Recent Popularization of Feminism in South Korea.” And in case you are wondering, yes the book collection is still growing!
Contemporary Voices of South Korean Women in Light of the Recent Popularization of Feminism in South Korea
I’ve been collecting books since I can remember, but this particular collection was put together in the last two and a half years, a time of popularization of feminism in South Korea . I purchased half of the collection during breaks when I was at home in South Korea; the other half, I purchased online in New Haven every now and then when I craved to read in my first language.
All books in the collection were written by contemporary South Korean women writers and were published in the last several years, influencing and being influenced by ongoing discussions on feminism in the context of past and contemporary society in South Korea. Genres of these books range from politics and social sciences nonfiction to novels, short stories, poetry, and essays, and their publishers range from major literary publishers to independent publishers and crowdfunding.
At first, I didn’t specifically intend to create a collection. I bought books for one reason or another: I liked the author’s other works, I liked the book title or the design, I saw someone I admire or relate to recommended the book, and so on. It was a while after when I realized that most of these books were written by South Korean women writers and were either directly or indirectly about everyday life as a woman in South Korea.
I wasn’t surprised to find this commonality. After all, I had been finding more and more literary works from Korea’s male-dominant academic and literary circles uncomfortable for their patriarchal, if not misogynic tone and theme. Following and participating in everyday discussions on feminism, I had grown more aware of prevalent gender inequality and deep-seated misogyny in South Korean society.
And I was not the only one experiencing such change. The reason I was able to read and collect all these books is because more and more women writers’ works were being published and read. People were beginning to realize how neglected women’s voices were, especially in talking about everyday life and politics. (The not too many previous works by women writers were mostly full-length novels with classic themes). The demand for works that address what it is like to live as a woman in South Korea, in both fiction and nonfiction form, has significantly increased in recent years and led to publication of more diverse books by women writers. More and more women are finding the status quo problematic and voicing their opinions.
Since this realization, I have been more consciously collecting books with the following goal in mind: hearing and recording the diverse voices of contemporary South Korean women in light of the feminist movement and discourse of our period. Slowly but steadily, we are rooting out misogyny in our society and working towards creating a safer place for everyone, and I will continue to document this important progress in a way of collecting books.