I’ve been trying to get my Korean mother to read more Western books in order to help along her English. She’s very stubborn when it comes to reading books that I recommend because I tend to become a bit of a drill sergeant. But I assured her that this time, she could take her sweet time reading and just enjoy whatever books she chose, and she was very on board with that idea.

But now it’s many months later, and I gotta say: it ain’t been easy getting someone to read. Obstacles just present themselves one after another–especially more so if you’re dealing with family and friends–and you start feeling like life hates your literary crusade.

What God, am I supposed to only read the Bible for the rest of my life?!

Exasperating thing #1: A picky customer.

One COULD just read middle school books, if they’re suited to that reading level as my mother is. However, my mother told me she’d rather read Lord of the Rings, to which I told her wasn’t a good idea as the books aren’t as accessible as the movies, and that middle school reads would be a better place to start. But according to my mother’s expertise, middle school books are boring, not “intellectually stimulating,” and are “for babies.” Wow, what a way to be ageist.

Inconvenient thing #2: English is one messed up language.

Add to the fact that the grammatical structure of English and Korean are completely different, there’s no way my mother is going to be able to read many “intellectually stimulating” books in English, let alone effectively learn the darned language.

Outrageous thing #3: Expensive books (DAAAYUM)

So maybe it’s a better idea for my mom to first tackle the Korean translations instead–then she would be free to maneuver the English versions with more ease. But we found out that the translated editions are nearly twice the price of the originals. Seriously. I ain’t gonna pay 40 bucks for your teeny-ass book.

Tragic thing #4: Not translated yet?

This one makes me want to cry. I wanted to introduce The Chosen, The Once and Future King, and Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked of the West, but they’re too linguistically complex for my mom to understand without translations–which are apparently nonexistent. It seems those books were too difficult to translate for the professionals as well? sobs

 False-hope thing #5: Premature celebration.

I started my mom off with The Giver by Lois Lowry (in English), which she finished with relative ease after many months of putting if off. And even then it was only after I cornered her during a 10-hour flight to Europe. But hey, she eventually loved it to pieces, so good start, eh?

Motivation-deficiency thing #5: Tug-of-war with a bull.

But then comes the stage where I’m the cattle-driver. Huffing and puffing, I yank the bull’s leash up a steep hill, begging her to please come on, just open a book, something, anything, dear gods. But she just mulishly tells me that she’d rather read Lord of the Rings.

Inevitable (?) thing #6: Excommunication.

Then when I gave her Harry Potter, she takes a few grueling months to finish. But I still have hope. After all, she really liked Book 3 and Book 6. But upon completing the series, my dear mother proceeds to tell me that the series wasn’t all that cracked up to be, and she’d rather read Lord of the Rings.

I love you mother, but I’ll be disowning you now.


Do you also have this trouble when recommending books to other people? Your words just go in one ear and out the other? They laugh dismissively while you hop up and down in righteous frustration?

Because all these issues are quadrupled when dealing with one stubborn mother, a language barrier, and an unreasonable reverence of Lord of the Rings.

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