Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words
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“Alex Clermont is a writer born and raised in New York City. He has a BA in English creative writing from Hunter College and has been an English teacher for the past several years.
Alex has been a contributing writer to Beyond Race Magazine, covering and interviewing independent artists and musicians. He was also the managing editor of Plateau, a quarterly print magazine that focused on independent musicians.”
For more, visit Clermont’s website.
“Imagine leaving behind everybody and everything familiar to live in a foreign country where you don't speak the language and don't know a soul. Worse yet, you look different from everybody there. People find your cultural norms insulting, and you can't get a date to save your life.
Imagine you wrote a book about your time there...
Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely is a collection of snapshots that cover the two years that Alex Clermont lived in the country of South Korea as an English teacher. Scribed with a flair for humor, emotion, character and depth, these introspective narratives do more than act as a travel guide. They are creatively written windows into the life of someone discovering new things about himself, the world, and the people who he shares it with-all while stuffing his mouth with kimchi.”
A few lines from the introduction of Eating Kimchi … jumped out at me as getting to the heart of what the book is about. He described these pieces as “creative non-fiction based on the real things that were happening to me in my new, unusual, home” about “emotions and situations that are universal. Things like death, love, sex, friendship, and food are not confined to one country.”
Although a collection of essays, from very short to relatively long, that each stand alone and were not designed to have an overarching theme, they still form a coherent whole. Clermont didn’t arrange the essays in chronological order, but instead ordered them in a way that I thought made the flow better. Many wouldn’t consider this a travel book, yet it has many of the qualities that some travel books have: a foreign locale with insights contrasting the local culture to the author’s own, and an attempt by the author to better understand himself based on his reactions to his new environment. However, the author is more open and forthcoming about his personal struggles and how they relate to his experiences than the typical travel book, taking Eating Kimchi … more into the ground usually trod in a memoir. An excellent read, both for its insights into life in Korea and how it shines a light on the human condition in general.
A small amount of adult language.
No significant errors.
Rating: **** Four stars