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My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store
by Ben Ryder Howe

Published: 2012-02-28
Paperback : 304 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members

This warm and funny tale of an earnest preppy editor finding himself trapped behind the counter of a Brooklyn convenience store is about family, culture, and identity in an age of discombobulation.

It starts with a gift, when Ben Ryder Howe's wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, ...

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Introduction

This warm and funny tale of an earnest preppy editor finding himself trapped behind the counter of a Brooklyn convenience store is about family, culture, and identity in an age of discombobulation.

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 at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. 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.

Editorial Review

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-lawsâ?? Staten Island basement. When Benâ??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 â??Mike Tyson of Korean grandmothers,â?? squares off with Mr. Tortilla Chip, and his pistol-packing employee, Dwayne, conducts X-rated phone calls with his girlfriends while ringing up customers. Howeâ??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

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Is Kay selfish in allowing her daughter to enter the deli venture?
How do you think Ben's family really felt about their son's new situation?
Did you find the commentary Korean culture to be insightful? Why/why not?
by Shareali (see profile) 12/11/11

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Member Reviews

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  "My Korean Deli - lighthearted insight into a cross cultural union against the unlikely backdrop of purchasing and running a deli in NY"by Shareali (see profile) 12/11/11

If you are looking for a humorous, easy read on something many us take for granted (our local deli), this is it! Influence of culture on rational decision making is also raised and generates good discussion.... (read more)

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