“Competence can be a curse.” So begins Min Jin Lee’s epic novel about class, society, and identity. Casey Han’s four years at Princeton have given her many things: a refined diction, an enviable golf handicap, a popular white boyfriend, an agnostic’s closeted passion for reading the Bible, and a magna cum laude degree in economics. But no job and a number of bad habits.
Casey’s parents, who live in Queens, are Korean immigrants working in a dry cleaner, desperately trying to hold onto their culture and identity. Their daughter, on the other hand, has entered into the upper echelon of rarified American society via scholarships. But after graduation, Casey’s trust-fund friends see only opportunity and choices while Casey sees the reality of having expensive habits without the means to sustain them. As Casey navigates Manhattan, we see her life and the lives of those around her: her sheltered mother, scarred father, her friend Ella who’s always been the good Korean girl, Ella’s ambitious Korean husband and his Caucasian mistress, Casey’s white fiancé, and then her Korean boyfriend, all culminating in a portrait of New York City and its world of haves and have-nots.
Free Food for Millionaires offers up a fresh exploration of the complex layers we inhabit both in society and within ourselves. Inspired by 19th century novels such as Vanity Fair and Middlemarch, Min Jin Lee examines maintaining identity within changing communities. This is a remarkably assured debut from a writer to watch. Download and start listening now!