The Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award winner for 2012 is Katherine Min, of Asheville, North Carolina. Competition judges selected Min's fiction for its wisdom, its insight into human nature, and its fresh, surprising, yet unaffected language. In short, hers is entirely brilliant writing--prose that's not only memorable, but also necessary.
Min's first novel, Secondhand World (Knopf), was a finalist for the PEN/Bingham Prize for "an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work... represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise." It is about a 17-year-old Korean-American girl, named Isa Sohn, who struggles to understand her immigrant parents, especially her stern, ex-ROK soldier father. "The Korean War was the defining event of my parents' generation," Min says. "A third of my father's high school class was killed; the country was divided and decimated. Almost everyone my parents' age has a relative who was taken or happened to be in North Korea when the split was made, and many do not know to this day if these relatives are alive or dead.
"This is such an enormous tragedy. I wanted to explore the ways in which the history of our parents and our grandparents affects us, even when that history is kept secret. Isa's father believes he can start a new life in America, that he can deny his past and its painful memories, but the fact is that you can't really start over, ever, or not without cost." Those many costs are what Min anatomizes in her absorbing fiction.
Her next novel, "The Fetishist," weaves among the lives of three central characters: a Caucasian violinist with a fetish for Asian women; a Korean-American cellist who is obsessed with Alma Mahler; and a young Japanese-American stalker/would-be assassin. The work is different from anything Min has ever written, yet it also deals with her themes of attraction to the Other, the limits of intimacy, and self-hatred, interlaced with elements of black comedy.
Katherine Min's short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, River Styx, and Prairie Schooner, and have been widely anthologized. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, fellowships from the North Carolina and New Hampshire State Arts Councils, and a Pushcart Prize.
Min was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and graduated from Amherst College and the Columbia University School of Journalism. She currently teaches at the University of North Carolina, Asheville.