Min Jin Lee is a Korean-American author and journalist. She is best known for the novels Free Food for Millionaires (2007) and Pachinko (2017), a finalist for the National Book Award and runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
Min Jin Lee was born in Seoul. Her family moved to America when she was seven. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, Lee pursued history at Yale College. During a non-fiction writing class in her junior year, she discovered her passion for writing.
Following Yale, she briefly studied law at Georgetown University Law Center and worked as a corporate lawyer in New York from 1993 to 1995.
However, due to grueling work hours and her battle with chronic liver disease, she made the courageous decision to transition to a writing career, ultimately recovering from her health challenges.
Her first success was the short story Axis of Happiness, which won the 2004 Narrative Prize from the Narrative Magazine.
The debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, was named one of the Top 10 Novels of the Year by The Times. The book pursues the journey of a young Korean-American woman who, after college graduation, sets her sights on infiltrating New York's elite social circles despite her lack of financial resources or employment.
In 2017, Lee published another novel, Pachinko, which was subsequently adapted into a TV series by Apple Inc.
Pachinko is an epic historical fiction novel that follows a Korean family who immigrates to Japan. The story delves into themes of identity, belonging, discrimination, and the pursuit of a better life.
Lee is the recipient of the 2022 Manhae Grand Prize for Literature from South Korea, the 2022 Bucheon Diaspora Literary Award, and the 2022 Samsung Happiness for Tomorrow Award for Creativity and fellowships in Fiction from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Min Jin Lee is an inductee of the New York Foundation for the Arts Hall of Fame and the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. She is a Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College, a trustee of PEN America, and a director of the Authors Guild.
Lee is working on her third novel, American Hagwon, and a non-fiction, Name Recognition.
Min Jin Lee currently lives in Harlem, New York City.
Photo credit: FB @minjinleebooks