Selected as a 2021 Best Fiction of the Year title by Bookshop staff:
In her assured debut collection, Yoon Choi plumbs the depths and writes to the breadth of the Korean American experience in these penetrating short stories. Through the eyes of the young and the aging, the parents, their children, husbands and wives, sisters and aunts, Skinship honors the complexity, affection, and grace of identity in relationship, especially those stressed by the transition between countries and cultures. This is not so much a book of a-ha moments, but one of expert unveiling and seeing fully—a beautiful, deeply humanizing read.
Maureen Corrigan/Fresh Air Top 10 Book of the Year ● Longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection ● An NPR Book Best Book of the Year ● A Kirkus Best Book of the Year
The breathtaking debut of an important new voice—centered on a constellation of Korean American families
“To encounter these achingly truthful, beautiful stories of newcomer Americans is like gazing up at the starry vault of a perfect night sky; it’s immediately dazzling and impressive, and yet the closer and deeper you look, the more you appreciate the sheer countless brilliance.”—Chang-rae Lee, author of My Year Abroad
A long-married couple is forced to confront their friend's painful past when a church revival comes to a nearby town ... A woman in an arranged marriage struggles to connect with the son she hid from her husband for years ... A well-meaning sister unwittingly reunites an abuser with his victims.
Through an indelible array of lives, Yoon Choi explores where first and second generations either clash or find common ground, where meaning falls in the cracks between languages, where relationships bend under the weight of tenderness and disappointment, where displacement turns to heartbreak.
Skinship is suffused with a profound understanding of humanity and offers a searing look at who the people we love truly are.
About the Author
YOON CHOI was born in Korea and moved to the U.S. at the age of three. She has an MA from Johns Hopkins and is a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Her stories and essays have appeared in New England Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Narrative Magazine, and The Best American Short Stories 2018. She lives with her husband and four children in Anaheim, California.
“Extraordinary...Magical...Reading Choi’s stories reminds me of how I felt when I first read the works of other singular sensations like Kevin Wilson or Karen Russell, writers who do things with language and storytelling that no one else has quite done before...It’s Choi’s approach, the way her stories unexpectedly splinter out from a single life to touch upon decades of family history shaped by immigration, that makes them something special...All these stories are standouts, but the title story is in a class of its own.” —Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air/NPR
“Beautiful...A rich and engaging new voice...With refreshing amplitude, patience, and (dare I say) wisdom, Choi’s stories explore the complexities of her characters’ diverse experiences.” —Claire Messud, Harper’s
“In every sense of the word ‘skinship,’ there is an element of affection, one that seeps through every page of Choi’s debut...Choi’s characters live, forget, make bonds, break them, heal them or not. Their affections are no less deep for the circumstances that often separate them from one another.” —New York Times Book Review
“An Alice Munro for the 21st century...Choi’s collection of short stories is an inventive, dazzling work...Each piece is a banger...Superb...Skinship is one of this year’s literary triumphs.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Brilliant stories...In its exacting prose, adroit pacing, and meticulously realized lives, this dazzling debut delivers.” —Oprah Daily(A Best Book of the Month)
“Think Alice Munro. Think Tobias Wolff. Think Lucia Berlin. Yoon Choi is a writer whose talents must be measured on the Richter Scale. The eight rich stories in this debut collection Skinship send tremors through our sensibilities, forcing us to reimagine the bonds that secure families, marriages, and generations. The rolling cadence of Choi’s prose—at turns lovely, wise, and funny—releases her characters’ voices to speak the truth of lives they’d likely never have otherwise been able to share. And what lives they are. Skinship charts the underlying power and deep humanity of those remanded to be bodega owners’ wives, arranged brides, hospice workers, and caretakers, all with inner realms that cascade forth under Choi’s careful gaze.” —Adam Johnson
“To encounter these achingly truthful, beautiful stories of newcomer Americans is like gazing up at the starry vault of a perfect night sky; it’s immediately dazzling and impressive, and yet the closer and deeper you look, the more you appreciate the sheer countless brilliance of Yoon Choi’s observations of love and devotion and sacrifice. Here is a writer who roots you and unsettles you and then roots you again in a new and revelatory axis.” —Chang-rae Lee
“A fresh take on the experience of newcomers to America...Choi’s writing closely details the emotions and inner lives of her characters; they feel real in a way that rings true.” —Associated Press
“Simply put, Yoon Choi is the most ambitious and accomplished practitioner of the Chekhovian short story to appear in many years.” —Garth Risk Hallberg,The Millions
“A debut story collection that introduces us to a master of the form. Skinship, and the intricate, lovingly rendered characters in it, will stay with me forever. Yoon Choi has a fan for life.” —Nathan Englander
“A book of short stories that I loved and that I hope you’ll savor and treasure as much as I did...In Yoon Choi’s hands, we are inside [these characters’] hearts and minds...It’s such a remarkable book...It is all the more remarkable, sometimes I’m just awestruck by what can be done by a writer in their first collection.” —Bill Goldstein, NBC Weekend Today in New York
“Yoon Choi writes with astounding precision and grace. These stories are filled with unflinching moments, so raw yet so true to life. The American experience is encapsulated here and imbued with a rare freshness. I was enthralled not only by the families, parents, and children of Choi’s masterful creation but also by the courage and strength I found on the page.” —Weike Wang
“Choi’s stories are remarkable for their warmth and compassion.” —Electric Literature
“These are such fine and startlingly insightful stories. Ms. Choi performs the beautiful oldest task of writing: that of giving us people we believe in, and who earn our interest, and she does this without the slightest hint of the facile, or the flashy. Each story feels true. The troubles of these people remind us of our own, even as they also shine in that wonderful otherness which we rightly associate with, say it, literature.” —Richard Bausch “Most collections have one or two entries that don’t quite measure up to the quality of the volume as a whole, but that’s not the case here. Each of Choi’s stories is distinguished by careful character development, patient exposition, and an emotional effect that deepens as the story proceeds.” —Shelf Awareness
“Lovely stories, such a good writer, everything so delicately made but robust and unsentimental too.” —Tessa Hadley
“So poised, dazzling, and powerful is Skinship, it comes as a shock to realize it is not the work of a writer far advanced in age and fame, but the first appearance of a gorgeous new voice. Choi’s vision is unsparing, her emotional range prodigious, her curiosity about her characters’ lives tenderly infinite. Lovers of the short story, take note: in this volume you will meet the newest great story writer.” —Elizabeth Tallent
“Choi’s writing is elegant, and there is a lacquered beauty to the tales. But what lingers is not the prose but the weight of other worlds, absent ancestors, and the diaspora’s awkward longing for a disappeared past and an unattainable future.” —Washington Independent Review of Books “Powerful and incisive stories.” —Orange County Register
“An uplifting and heartbreaking collection of short stories, Skinship challenges what it means to love; it captures the intricate webs of the Korean diaspora, the myth of the American Dream, and the complexity of human relationships...So spectacularly visceral...I’ve grown up with these characters...To read their stories is like sitting with my family members and friends and having a heart-to-heart over a bottle of soju.” —Mochi Magazine “The rare story collection that draws you in so completely that the pages turn themselves...Choi’s stories are both closely observed and expansive, a feat of narrative engineering that places her next to Alice Munro...An exceptional debut.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Extraordinary...Beautifully rendered...These stories continue to astound long after their final pages...The title story is brilliantly conceived...[Another story] is worthy of Henry James...As she observes her characters, Yoon Choi dexterously and compassionately evokes Korean American life and its divergent generations with her accomplished, intimate storytelling.” —Anniston Star
“Poignant...Choi succeeds in making every character complex. Each voice has something meaningful to say in this accomplished collection.” —Publishers Weekly