Student Spotlight: Melanie Kim '23, Medical Anthropology

In this spotlight interview, Melanie Kim discusses writing her debut book "Oil Paper Family." It tells the true story of her grandfather, Young Bok, and highlights Korea’s difficult and oppressive past through his eyes. The story is shaped by Young Bok's love for family and his dreams of becoming a doctor.

"I had always been curious about my grandfather’s story ever since I was a child. Maybe I started writing this book for myself; I always wanted to be an author. But I also wrote it because of how my grandfather looked while he was telling me the stories of his life. When he held my hand and told me about his siblings and his mother, when I saw so much passion and life and pain and resilience… I had to know more.  

I spent a year and a half interviewing my grandfather. And over the course of the three or so years after, I began to piece together the stories my grandfather told me, weaving them into a cohesive narrative.

I came to this topic knowing very little, approaching it as first as many readers might, with wide-eyed curiosity and a thirst for knowledge and truth. I had the opportunity to view this as the experience of my grandfather, foremost, with the background of such key historical moments as Japanese occupation of Korea, the March First Movement, the Korean War, and the communist rule. In this journey of combing through books and primary sources and old footage, I began to more fully understand how my grandfather’s story was a part of mine, too. And the more we talked, the more I was struck by the fact that he could smile and laugh; the fact that he even sat in front of me was a miracle. That’s something I hope you will not miss either. I hope you ask questions and take the time to listen to the stories of a loved one. I hope you get to hold their hand and see that beautifully intimate moment when they are talking about the person whom they love best in the entire world." 

Learn more and consider purchasing Oil Paper Family on Amazon