My Korean Deli

My Korean Deli : Risking It All for a Convenience Store

3.4 (3,431 ratings by Goodreads)
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This sweet and funny tale of a preppy literary editor buying a Brooklyn deli with his Korean in-laws is about family, class, culture clash, and the quest for authentic experiences in an increasingly unreal city.

It starts with a simple 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 rarefiedParis Review, reluctantly agrees to go along. However, 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 theParis Review offices in George Plimpton's Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. The book follows the store's tumultuous lifespan, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters across society, from the Brooklyn ghetto 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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Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 149.86 x 210.82 x 30.48mm | 430.91g
  • United States
  • English
  • 0385664125
  • 9780385664127

Review quote

“It’s hard not to fall in love with My Korean Deli. First, it’s the (very) rare memoir that places careful, loving attention squarely on other people rather than the author. Second, it tells a rollicking, made-for-the-movies story in a wonderfully funny deadpan style. By the end, you’ll feel like you know the author and his family quite well—even though you may not be eager to move in with them. . . . [Howe’s] always extremely sharp—and unexpectedly funny . . . although [he] would never say so himself, his new life fully achieves the sort of risky adventure George Plimpton only dabbled at.”
—Corby Kummer, The New York Times
“Howe, though a fairly lousy shopkeeper, makes for an excellent narrator: His book is an engaging and funny tour of the down-and-dirty world of New York City small business . . . My Korean Deli is likely to be the best look we’ll ever get at the inner workings of the most important literary magazine in the world during its awkward transition from an icon’s pet project to a smaller, more serious concern. . . . [A] plucky, thoughtful memoir.”
—Dan Kois, National Public Radio
“[A] funny and insightful journey . . .”
—Metro (New York)
“[Ben Howe and wife Gab’s] exhausting, frustrating search for the perfect market is the basis for an amusing take on familial relations and class distinctions.”
—The Washington Post
“[Howe’s] retail narrative is surprisingly philosophical—in a good way. Never stilted, Howe’s introspections use simple language to thoughtfully touch upon a spectrum of complex issues, such as personal identity, family relationships, and culture clashes . . . [with] abundant humor and humility.”
—CS Monitor
“Howe . . . delivers a smartly written narrative about love, literature, and the lengths one goes to for family, which turns out to be especially far.”
“My Korean Deli is one of those walk-a-mile-in-another-man’s shoes experiments . . . in which a privileged protagonist lives as a disenfranchised person for a period of time, then chronicles it. These books are always slightly problematic and we forgive them only if real insight is provided. In Howe’s case, it’s doubly forgivable, since it’s no gimmick but, rather, an organic foray into the life.”
—Toronto Star
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About Ben Ryder Howe

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 The Paris Review. He, his wife and their two children recently moved out of the basement of her family's house on Staten Island. This is his first book.
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Rating details

3,431 ratings
3.4 out of 5 stars
5 10% (330)
4 37% (1,265)
3 40% (1,382)
2 11% (375)
1 2% (79)
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