Q&A with Annabelle Kim

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Get to know 2018 Festival speaker Annabelle Kim, author of Tiger Pelt

If you could make everyone in the world read one book, which would it be?

Night by Elie Wiesel was written in blood. The true account of the author’s holocaust survival unfolds at heart-pounding pace in stark spare prose. Night reminds us that the human race is capable of both unfathomable evil and miraculous resilience. Now, more than ever, we need to remember humanity’s darkest past and to resist even the smallest misstep that, left unchecked, could accelerate to a headlong tumble into another abyss.

What is your favorite aspect of participating in book festivals?

I love meeting readers and writers at book festivals. The opportunity to gather with a community of literature lovers and gab about food, shopping, kids, pets, Charlottesville, and, of course, books, books, books… such a delightful respite from the solitary grind of writing.

Which other speakers are you excited to see or hoping to meet at the Festival?

I am excited about my panel: International Stories, Shared Humanities, moderated by professor Marlene Daut and I am excited to meet my fellow panelists Adrienne Benson and Katia Ulysse because, like me, they were drawn to stories that explore how ordinary people survive extraordinary conditions. Our novels take place in countries that circumnavigate the globe from Haiti to Kenya to Liberia to Korea. The idea of “shared humanities” from one end of the planet to the other is, I feel, compelling and beautiful. I also hope to meet Susan Bauer-Wu, whose book sounds fascinating.

Which part of your book are you most proud of?

My book was originally inspired by the remarkable life of my father who came of age during the Japanese occupation of World War II followed by the Korean War. In the original draft of my book, there was only a male protagonist. The comfort women, young girls who were impressed into sexual slavery during World War II, were not represented at all; in fact, it was a subject I was viscerally repelled by. The more I researched the period, the more the voices of the comfort women cried out to be heard. The part of my book that I am most proud of, but also most humbled by, is the story of a comfort woman Hana, a fictional female character who became so real to me that I shed for her tears of sorrow and ultimately of joy, as if she were my own flesh and blood.

What are you working on next?

I am working on an odyssey story about a young engineer who travels across the country from Pennsylvania to California in a trailer-mounted drinking water treatment pilot plant. If that sounds preposterous, it is actually the first job I had back when I was an engineer in my previous incarnation. However, my novel is in no way autobiographical. I am a quiet, nice, simple person. My character is a cantankerous, ambitious, and impulsive fireball and she will be experiencing many more rip-roaring adventures and questionable encounters on her journey than I ever did!

In the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book, Annabelle Kim will participate in Fiction: International Stories, Shared Humanities on Friday, March 23.