Pachinko

Author: 
Lee, Min Jin

Profoundly moving and gracefully told, Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them.

Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life.

So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history. In Japan, Sunja's family members endure harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty, yet they also encounter great joy as they pursue their passions and rise to meet the challenges this new home presents.

Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, they are bound together by deep roots as their family faces enduring questions of faith, family, and identity. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. The novel's opening sentence reads, "History has failed us, but no matter." What does the sentence mean, and what expectations might it establish for the reader? Why the tail end of the sentence, "but no matter"?
 
2. Talk about the thematic significance of the book's title. Pachinko is a sort of slot/pinball game played throughout Japan, and it's arcades are also a way for foreigners to find work and accumulate money.

3. What are the cultural differences between Korea and Japan?

4. As "Zainichi," non-Japanese, how are Koreans treated in Japan? What rules must they adhere to, and what restrictions apply to them?

5. Follow-up to Questions 3 and 4: Discuss the theme of belonging, which is pervades this novel. How does where one "belongs" tie into self-identity? Consider Mozasu and his son, Solomon. In what ways are their experiences similar when it comes to national identity? How do both of them feel toward the Japanese?

6. How is World War II viewed in this novel—especially from the perspective of the various characters living in Japan? Has reading about the war through their eyes altered your own understanding of the war?

7. How would you describe Sunja and Isak. How do their differing innate talents complement one another and enable them to survive in Japan?

8. Are there particular characters you were drawn to more than others, perhaps even those who are morally compromised? If so who...and why?

(Questions by LitLovers)