Aparita Bhandari feels The Silence of Bones by June Hur is a must-read if you loved this Steph Cha novel
This interview originally aired on April 10, 2021.
The 2019 bestselling novel Your House Will Pay by Korean American novelist Steph Cha is a thrilling and thoughtful book about the aftermath of a fictional convenience store shooting in 1991.
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
"On March 16th, 1991, before the Rodney King shooting in the United States that many people will remember, Latasha Harlins was a Black 15-year-old who walked into the Empire Liquor Market and Deli in Los Angeles. The Korean American convenience store owner accused her of stealing. Latasha was, in fact, trying to pay for the juice that she had picked up.
It's interesting to look back at that particular point of time from the perspective that we have right now.
"There was this back and forth between them. Latasha fought back with her and she hit the store owner four times. She was leaving when the store owner shot Latasha in the back of her head. Latasha died with two dollars in her hand. This is the actual incident that inspired this book. In her book, Cha says that this is a fictionalized version of that particular shooting, but it's based on this very real-life incident.
"It's interesting to look back at that particular point of time from the perspective that we have right now. Cha lays the groundwork of these two families. We're also dealing with a lot of sociological issues and a lot of things that are coming to light these days, especially after the whole George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matters conversations that have been happening.
"But they have become even more protracted after George Floyd — and some of that perspective is woven in this book, which is interesting."
"Just like Your House Will Pay bends genres in some ways, so does this Canadian book. It has a similar murder-mystery angle, but it's historical fiction set in this period of the Joseon dynasty of Korea in the 1800s.
"Seol is a 16-year-old girl who is indentured to the police bureau. She's working with this young inspector to investigate what's become this really politically charged murder of a noblewoman. Seol forms this bond with this inspector that she's helping out. But her loyalty to him is tested when, through her own kind of deductions, she thinks that he's actually the prime suspect in this particular murder.
Just like Your House Will Pay bends genres in some ways, so does this Canadian book.
"If you watch a lot of Korean drama that's set in this particular Joseon era, it's a huge thing, which is also partly what inspired the author. It's like a whole genre in itself. This whole idea of obedience and silence is really prized. So to have this young woman, she's 16, curious and questioning, is really quite fascinating and interesting."
Aparita Bhandari's comments have been edited for length and clarity.