Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An Interview with Jana McBurney-Lin, author of My Half of the Sky and Blossoms and Bayonets

Had a sit-down with Jana McBurney-Lin a while back.  Here's what she had to say:

"'Your first novel reminds me of old Korea,' Korean-American Hi-Dong Chai said to me at a writer's conference.  'Will you help me tell my story?'  My first novel, My Half of the Sky (KOMENAR, 2006), took place in contemporary China, where my husband was born and raised.  (In fact, we lived in Japan and Singapore for a total of 15 years.)  I initially had plans to work on a sequel to My Half of the Sky.  However, when Dr. Chai started telling his story-of being raised in Japanese-occupied Seoul, Korea, as the son of one of the first Christian ministers in the city-I was captivated.

"At first, I helped.  I edited here.  Made suggestions there.  After two years, he came to me and said, 'I'm an engineer.  Will you write the story?'  I said it isn't my story to tell.  But I told him I would co-author it if we could turn it into fiction.  And that's what we did. Blossoms and Bayonets was published October, 2012 (Redwood)."

Here is Goodreads' synopsis:

Hi-Dong Chai and Jana McBurney-Lin, the award-winning author of My Half of the Sky, turn their hands to a remarkable story of a family and country torn apart by outside forces. The time is 1942, the place, Japanese-occupied Seoul, Korea. Fifteen-year-old He-Seung is full of fire, ready to take on these Japanese...if only he could convince his father, a Christian minister more concerned about saving his flock in a time when Emperor-worship has become mandatory. Since occupation, the Japanese have eradicated the Korean language, names, even the country's flower. Now they are seeking Korean boys as volunteers for their army. When his father is arrested by the Japanese, however, He-Seung must swallow his hatred of the enemy and volunteer for the military. Even harder, he must leave his mother and baby brother He-Dong to fend for themselves.   

I have read both of Jana's books, but I don't remember much about the 1st one because I read it quite a few years ago (I also don't remember what I had for breakfast this morning!).  But I do remember Blossoms and Bayonets.  And I liked it a lot.  In fact, this Thursday night, September 18, Jana and Hi-Dong Chai will be the Recycle Book Club's authors.  I saw them talk about the book at the Los Gatos Library 3rd Tuesday Book Club. It is fascinating stuff.  Even though I was a history major, I never knew that Japan occupied Korea during WWII.  Now I know that, and a whole bunch more.  If you want to get a history lesson that will keep you mesmerized (I'm not talking about 11th grade high school world history here), then come on by.  Jana and Hi-Dong will be at Recycle Bookstore in downtown Campbell from 7:15-8:15.  And don't worry about not reading the book ahead of time.  It's just darn interesting anyway.

What's next for Jana?  Well, all I know is that we can expect her 3rd book sometime in 2015 or 2016.  That's a good thing, people.


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Lloyd. Jana is a new author to me.