Miles from Nowhere
January 2009 Indie Next List
— Nick Petrulakis, Books Inc., Alameda, CA
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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.
Praise For Miles from Nowhere…
-People (four stars, "Pick of the Week")
"Emotionally upending...Mun relays it all with a jarring honesty that makes the book...impossible to forget."
"Gritty, riveting...Filled with soft and lovely descriptive touches...[Mun] zip[s] back and forth between despair and joy, between degradation and exhilaration."
"Remarkable...As the best novelists do, Mun has taken the essence of her personal experience and reshaped it into something original."
"Heartbreaking...We follow teenage runaway Joon as she navigates dark New York streets, and ultimately finds hope and the will to survive."
"Brilliant and authentic...Those who delight in the raw power of words have a new author to add to our libraries."
-Dallas Morning News
"Graceful, nearly transcendent...One of the most vivid and haunting novels I've read in years."
-San Diego Union- Tribune
"Beautiful...Illuminates a side of American life one is not likely to see elsewhere."
Riverhead Books, 9781594483981, 304pp.
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
Beginning with helping to steal a Christmas tree, we see Joon participate in acts that aren’t fully legal throughout most of the book. Her actions clearly don’t fit within conventional morality, but is there an ethical code to the way she behaves on the street? Is Joon a principled person? Is Knowledge?
Joon has many friendships and relationships over the course of the book—Knowledge and Benny, for instance—but in the end she is essentially alone. Do you think her friendships during her years on the street were true ones, or were they simply ones for survival?
The book follows Joon over the course of several years and a variety of different experiences. From Joon’s first escapades with Knowledge to her last conversation with Mr. McCommon, how do you think Joon evolves over the course of the novel?
As hard as Joon fights to move on with her life, to stay clean, to stay off the streets, do you feel like there’s hope for her to build a better life in the end?
Given the state of Joon’s life at home, do you think her decision to leave home was justified? Was it courageous? Why or why not?
Do you think people in the “straight world” from whom Joon seeks help—the employment officer, the nurse—treat her fairly or unfairly? Does reading this book change the way you would approach someone in Joon’s situation?
At the close of the novel, are you convinced that Joon will make a different life for herself?
What does Joon gain from living on the street? What does she lose?