Miles from Nowhere

( 17 )

Overview

A major voice in fiction debuts with the story of a teenage runaway on the streets of 1980s New York.

Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father's infidelity; he has left the family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of thirteen, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes the ...

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Overview

A major voice in fiction debuts with the story of a teenage runaway on the streets of 1980s New York.

Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father's infidelity; he has left the family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of thirteen, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes the painful difficulties of a life lived on the margins. Joon's adolescent years take her from a homeless shelter to an escort club, through struggles with addiction, to jobs selling newspapers and cosmetics, committing petty crimes, and finally toward something resembling hope.

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Editorial Reviews

Alison McCulloch
With the addiction memoir frequently trumping the novel for depths of degradation and despair, where can the fiction writer go with such a story? In her first novel, Mun…takes a spare, unsentimental path…Joon's is a familiar story, but it's fresh enough here to catch the reader up in wanting an answer to its familiar question: will hope triumph over heroin?
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Mun's first novel is a 1980s urban odyssey in which Joon-Mee, a 12-year-old Korean-American, leaves her troubled Bronx family for the life of a New York City runaway. The novel follows Joon over six years, as she lives in a homeless shelter, finds work as an underage escort and a streetwalker, succumbs to drug addiction and petty crime, then tries to turn it all around. Along the way we meet a cast of addicts, grifters and homeless people, including Wink, a boisterous but vulnerable young street veteran ("I didn't even know they had boy prostitutes"); Knowledge, a friend who ropes Joon into helping steal her family's Christmas tree; and Benny, a drugged-up orderly and self-destructive love interest. Mun is careful not to lean on the '80s ambience, and Joon's voice, purged of self-pity, sounds clear and strong on every page. Individual scenes, including Joon's first john, her interview with an antagonistic employment counselor and her climactic encounter with a good-hearted former neighbor, are wonderfully written. Unfortunately, the novel's episodic structure prevents Joon's story from building to anything greater than its parts. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

This first novel covers about five years in the life of Korean American teenager Joon. The daughter of Korean immigrants, Joon runs away from home at age 13 after her mother self-destructs when she is abandoned by her husband. The story of Joon's descent into heroin addiction and prostitution on the streets of New York is grim but absolutely authentic. And as Joon witnesses the disintegration of some of her friends, the reader gets the feeling that she will be able to save herself. Three key scenes late in the book provide gripping climaxes of different sorts. One is an extended sequence in which Joon tries to sell Avon door to door to people who are mentally ill. Another is a chilling, drug-induced interlude with a boyfriend who cuts Joon. The last is a desperate encounter at an employment agency, where Joon must decide whether she's ready to stop running. Joon's wish to belong somewhere is reminiscent of the teenage girl's search for a home in Janet Fitch's White Oleander. A haunting debut by an author who made her own journey from runaway to writer; recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ9/15/08.]
—Evelyn Beck

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594483981
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 545,884
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.18 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Nami Mun

Nami Mun was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up there and in Bronx, New York. She has worked as an Avon Lady, an activities coordinator for a nursing home, a photojournalist, and a criminal investigator. After earning her GED, she graduated from UC Berkeley, and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan. A recipient of a Pushcart Prize, she has published in numerous journals including the 2007 Pushcart Prize anthology, The Iowa Review, Tin House, Evergreen Review, Witness, and other journals. She currently lives in Chicago.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful writing

    I love the way this book was written but not sure if I liked the book. I think the author has a lot of potential, the characters in the book were not likable, but I don't think they were intended to be. The book was disjointed and ended ubruptly.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    extremely deep look at life for a runaway young teen

    In the 1980s her father abandoned twelve years old Korean-American Joon-Mee and her mother; he was unable to cope with the increased craziness of his wife and still held her culpable for their leaving their country four years earlier. When her mom turns even more helpless with her midnight hole digging activity and is in denial that she everything is messed up except for the humiliation and economic disaster, Joon-Mee flees the Bronx for Manhattan. The runaway becomes a hooker and escort.<BR/>---<BR/>Soon heroin becomes part of the repertoire. She makes friends on the streets, but understands the code that no one has your back although male prostitute Wink mentors her on surviving the ¿Johns, the homeless, and the competitors. Benny, who has a regular job as an orderly, is nice to her when he is not too high; when he is he can be a nasty cutter. Life on the street is rough and fast with even the strong ultimately unable to survive.<BR/>---<BR/>This is not an easy read, but is an extremely deep look at life for a runaway young teen. The story line mostly focuses on Joon-Mee but also enables the reader to see how her mentor Knowledge and others survive at shelters and on the meanest streets. This is cutthroat capitalism at its purest; just like the extreme right wing envision. Readers will be stunned with the graphic details of survival in an urban jungle in which your stalking predator may be sleeping in the cot next too or may be your latest John.<BR/>---<BR/>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    The Heart of a Homeless American Dream!

    Banish the myth or legend about the Korean immigrant family who arrives in America to "make good," to succeed in achieving the American Dream! Instead welcome to the world of one particular Korean-American girl, Joon-Mee, a 12 year-old girl whose mother descends into the world of madness after Joon's father disappears. <BR/><BR/>Almost every reader has seen and heard about the world of homeless adults. Now Joon-Mee describes for us her audacious life in a world of homeless young adults or teens who sometimes sleep in the threatening world of public shelters, who virtually overnight become adult survivors of just about every ruse to manipulate and destroy their young minds and spirits.<BR/><BR/>You'll meet the character Knowledge, who always has a bigger and better plan to make enough money to sleep off the streets and to buy drugs; including the theft of a huge Christmas tree; Wink a boy prostitute, characters from an escort service where Joon is introduced to the world of prostitution, and more. <BR/><BR/>When Joon decides to go straight, she meets up with an uncompromising employment counselor and a well-intentioned neighbor who offers consolation about a future whose dreams and goals seem impossible.<BR/><BR/>Miles from Nowhere doesn't build up to a grand crescendo but instead steadily infuses the drama with hints of deep, fragile insecurity lurking behind surface toughness visible to observers of this very cold, hard world. A young child, really, has no other options - the proverbial but too true reality of Joon's world. But the Joon Mee begins to undergo an unexplained metamorphosis, and the reader can actually feel her tension and anguish as she attempts to leave an imprisoned, lethal world. <BR/><BR/>Nami Mun's language flows from lyrical prose-like descriptions to authentic dialogue that alerts the reader to realize this young author knows this tragic world. It's that realization confirmed over and over again that makes this a riveting, stunning read that evokes emotional reaction and numerous questions about choice, despair, survival and hope! <BR/><BR/>A wise, literate, fresh story from an author to closely follow in the days to come! <BR/><BR/>Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on November 3, 2008

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2013

    Love the writing! Succinct and profound. Had to read some senten

    Love the writing! Succinct and profound. Had to read some sentences over and over again. The really profound quotes sneak up on you! Highly recommend!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2012

    Lantern

    Hey greenleaf

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  • Posted December 26, 2010

    great book

    I picked this book up out of curiousity and I loved it. I would like to see more from Mun in the near future. Its a truly captivating story, one that had me reading from begining to end in one sitting. If you like such authors as Haruki Murakami and Ryu Murakami, you will probably enjoy Muns debut, Miles From Nowhere.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    A book with a lot of reality.

    Good book, definately different than what I usually read. Made me cry and cringe several times. Nice to see that someone with such a hard life at such an early age could succeed so greatly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2009

    Harrowing but Hopeful

    I thought this book to be a great read! The best part of this book was that it was real. Mun's novel is written with such truth that it grips at your inner core to feel so much sorrow for Joon's character. One of my favorite exerts from the book in on page 285 where Joon talks about how she doesn't deserve to grieve her mother's death because she abandoned her when her mother needed her the most. And how much she would give just to see her again, even when her mother was at her worst emotional state. I think Joon's journey is exemplary of many who find themselves lost, scared, doubtful of their own abilities, and looking to fill some void within themselves. This book is a really great read that forces you to think if someone like Joon can make it alive through all of her struggles toward a hopeful future, why can't I?

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  • Posted May 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Raw and gritty

    Initially, the book started to draw me in, with its tale of Joon, and her introduction to the reader from a shelter, young, and alone. And then, as the story unfolds, it feels like an unstoppable downward rolling roller coaster, on a trip to see how low-down, dirty, drug grunged and strung out Joon can possibly get. I lost any sympathy I had begun to feel at the outset. Like the majority of seasons in the book, this one left me cold.

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  • Posted January 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I love this book

    I saw the reviews of this book in, "People" magazine. I immediately went to Barnes and Noble to purchase and read this book in one day. This book was amazing. You can't go wrong with this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted July 18, 2011

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    Posted September 29, 2009

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    Posted May 12, 2010

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    Posted February 23, 2009

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    Posted January 5, 2009

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    Posted December 18, 2012

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    Posted February 19, 2013

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    Posted January 14, 2010

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 17 Customer Reviews

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