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Cover for My Brilliant Life

My Brilliant Life

Ae-ran Kim, Chi-Young Kim (Translated by)


List Price: 24.99*
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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (1/25/2021)
Paperback (2/1/2022)
Library Binding, Large Print (2/3/2021)



“An eminent South Korean talent makes her American début in this poignant watercolor of a novel . . . Kim is a writer on the move.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

Ae-ran Kim's My Brilliant Life explores family bonds and out-of-the-ordinary friendships, interweaving the past and present of a tight-knit family, finding joy and happiness in even the most difficult times.

Areum lives life to its fullest, vicariously through the stories of his parents, conversations with Little Grandpa Jang—his sixty-year-old neighbor and best friend—and through the books he reads to visit the places he would otherwise never see.

For several months, Areum has been working on a manuscript, piecing together his parents’ often embellished stories about his family and childhood. He hopes to present it on his birthday, as a final gift to his mom and dad; their own falling-in-love story.

Through it all, Areum and his family will have you laughing and crying, for all the right reasons.

“This novel snuck up on me and captured my heart.” Margarita Montimore, USA Today bestselling author of Oona Out of Order

Praise For My Brilliant Life

“This novel snuck up on me and captured my heart.”
Margarita Montimore, USA Today bestselling author of Oona Out of Order

“Poetic . . . the humor, wisdom, and grace of this family carry us through a touching story of the hardest of times.”
—Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of This Is How It Always Is

“Heartfelt, hilarious, and full of wonder—My Brilliant Life is extraordinary and Ae-ran Kim astounds. Her novel is a warm, expansive exploration of family, the many different ways we love, and the infinite lives that each of us lives. It’s the loveliest book.”
—Bryan Washington, USA Today bestselling author of Memorial

“A moving, earnest, and deeply-felt exploration of a unique family in all its joys and disappointments.”
Claire Lombardo, New York Times bestselling author of The Most Fun We Ever Had

“This is one of those novels where the characters seem to have immortal souls. They’re so real to me I feel like adding them to my Christmas card list. When you read this book, give them my regards. Let them know I still think about them.”
Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Stylish and engaging, this eloquent book encompasses with compassion and discernment the ordinary miracles of birth and death and everything in between.”
Kathleen Rooney, national bestselling author of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

“Areum discovers more wisdom, humor, and insight in seventeen years of life than many of us find in a lifetime.”
Heather Harpham, award-winning playwright and author of Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After

“To read Ae-ran Kim is to fall in love with her.”
Kyung-sook Shin, New York Times bestselling and Man Asian Prize winning author of Please Look After Mom

“An eminent South Korean talent makes her American début in this poignant watercolor of a novel . . . Kim is a writer on the move.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine

My Brilliant Life is an achingly beautiful story.”
—Shelf Awareness starred review

“Compounding moments of insight and joy resonate deeply, with heartwarming results.”

“Areum’s reckoning with his fate makes for a wrenching story. This slim book has so much heart, packing quite an emotional investment into its 208 pages. As fleeting as Areum’s fictional life may be, he will not be a character easily forgotten.”

“This quirky, bighearted book crackles with life on every page.”
—Asymptote Journal

“It's a flawless book . . . I loved My Brilliant Life.
—Books and Bao

Forge Books, 9781250750556, 208pp.

Publication Date: January 26, 2021

About the Author

AE-RAN KIM was born in Incheon, South Korea, the youngest of three daughters. She has won the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Kim Yu-jeong Literary Award, Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award, and the Prix de l'Inaperçu, among others, for her short fiction and collections. My Brilliant Life is her first novel.

CHI-YOUNG KIM (translator) is based in Los Angeles, California. She has translated more than a dozen books, including Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin (Man Asian Literary Prize-winner and New York Times bestseller), and works by You-jeong Jeong, Young-ha Kim, and J.M. Lee.

Conversation Starters from

1. How did the novel change the way you perceive the aging process and the tradeoffs between physical limitations and wisdom? Is Areum the most mature person in the novel despite his young chronological age?

2. What were your first impressions of Areum’s mom and dad (Mira and Daeho)? How did parenthood transform them? When Mira tells her friend Sumi that she fell in love with Daeho because they were both “hiding” on the margins of life, what do we learn about the heart of their marriage?

3. What is it like to read this storyline entirely from Areum’s point of view, especially in light of his role as a writer who is hard at work on a meaningful manuscript? How might the narrative have been different if Mira or Daeho had been the narrator?

4. Areum has the strong body of an athlete and Tae Kwon Do practitioner. Yet, he has trouble controlling his temper. Is his contrary personality a sign of his frailty, or is it actually evidence of additional strength?

5. Why is Sumi obsessed with grades and conventional definitions of success? How is she able to be close friends with the more fun-loving Mira? Did you grow up in a community with similar beliefs about the schooled versus the unschooled?

6. When Seungchan agrees to feature Areum on his show, does the production process reveal truths or distort reality?

7. The failed Nike store gives Areum’s family a glimpse of prosperous neighborhoods. What does the novel demonstrate about the roots of poverty and its impact on access to healthcare?

8. Mira sometimes blames herself for her son’s progeria, though the disorder is attributed to a random genetic mutation. Is it a blessing that Areum is not religious?

9. One of the things Areum feels sad about is that he will not become old enough to fail at anything, and that he will miss out on feeling major disappointments like others who enter adulthood. How would you answer the novel’s question about who is more unfortunate: someone who misses something they’ve had or the person who imagines something they’ve never had?

10. Is Little Grandpa Jang as self-centered as he appears to be? What does he ultimately teach Areum about love?

11. As much as Areum never liked the word “understanding,” he badly wants to be understood. Did his experience with Lee Seoha ultimately make him feel understood? As you read Areum’s list of what makes him want to live, what did you discover about the real cause of loneliness and how to soothe it?

12. When you saw the vivid words about things that bring Areum joy—including his favorite poetry and music, and LittleBigPlanet—how did those details bring him to life in your mind?

13. What does the closing scene say about the nature of life and hope? In your opinion, does My Brilliant Life have a happy ending? Or is it bittersweet?