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National Book Award finalist Min Jin Lee to give Commencement address

Duane Bonifer
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Critically acclaimed author Min Jin Lee will give Monmouth College’s 2018 Commencement address. Monmouth’s 161st Commencement will be at noon on May 13 on the College’s Wallace Hall Plaza.

Lee’s second novel, the national bestseller Pachinko, was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award.

A multigenerational family story, Pachinko chronicles the Korean diaspora who lived in Japan from the early 20th century through the 1980s. It was hailed by critics as “a marvel of masterful storytelling” and was also named a New York Times Editor’s Choice and an American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next Great Reads.

“We are fortunate to have an author of Min Jin Lee’s stature deliver our 2018 Commencement address,” said Monmouth College President Clarence R. Wyatt. “Her life and writing demonstrate the power of ideas and words to challenge and inspire.”

Lee’s debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, was published in 2007 and was a No. 1 Book Sense Pick, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a Wall Street Journal Juggle Book Club selection and a national bestseller. It was a Top 10 Novels of the Year for The Times of London, NPR’s Fresh Air and USA Today. Lee’s short story “Motherland,” which also focused on Koreans living in Japan, won the Peden Prize from The Missouri Review.

“The Board of Monmouth College and President Wyatt are extremely excited that National Book Award finalist Min Jin Lee has accepted our invitation to be the Monmouth commencement speaker for 2018,” said Monmouth College Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Kopinski. “A highly acclaimed author, much of Ms. Lee’s writing displays both a thoughtful and dynamic grasp of the challenges people face as they experience new cultures. We look forward to her heartfelt address.”

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Lee’s family moved to the United States in 1976. Lee studied history at Yale University, where she was awarded both the Henry Wright Prize for Nonfiction and the James Ashmun Veech Prize for Fiction. She attended law school at Georgetown University and worked as a lawyer for several years in New York City before becoming a full-time writer. She has lectured at numerous U.S. colleges and universities as well as literary events and festivals.