This sweet and funny tale of a preppy editor buying a Brooklyn deli with his Korean in-laws is about family, culture clash, and the quest for authentic experiences.
It starts with a gift. When Ben Ryder Howe's wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents self-sacrifice by buying them a store, Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, agrees to go along. Things soon become a lot more complicated. After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton s Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets by night. My Korean Deli follows the store s tumultuous life span, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters with shoots across society, from the Brooklyn streets to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to salvage the original gift--and the family--while sorting out issues of values, work, and identity.
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2011: In this laugh-out-loud funny memoir, Ben Ryder Howe, a burned out editor at the Paris Review, spends his days concealing his apathy from his eccentric boss (George Plimpton!), avoiding the short story slush pile, and anticipating the day he will move out of his in-laws’ Staten Island basement. When Ben’s wife insists they buy a deli for her mother, he is skeptical but somehow energized by the risk involved, envisioning himself behind the counter at a profitable little deli providing bohemian customers with gourmet groceries. Instead, he ricochets from the magazine by day to the struggling deli by night, where his regular customers drink beer in the aisles, his mother-in-law, the “Mike Tyson of Korean grandmothers,” squares off with Mr. Tortilla Chip, and his pistol-packing employee, Dwayne, conducts X-rated phone calls with his girlfriends while ringing up customers. Howe’s daily interactions with a unique cross-section of humanity and his self-deprecating humor infuse My Korean Deli with insight, hopefulness, and addictive entertainment.-- Seira Wilson
BEN RYDER HOWE has written for the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, and Outside, and his work has been selected for Best American Travel Writing. He is a former senior editor of Paris Review. My Korean Deli is his first book.
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