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What The Books Don't Tell You

Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Registration is requested
Members Free and Non-members Free with admission ($10)

What The Books Don't Tell You

With Justine Chang

"Grandmother is a small woman. She fits into a pot that feeds the village. Grandfather has a desk with a secret drawer. Mother crawls into the hidden compartment. Sister gets lost in a sea of black umbrellas. Father finds light in stone. We tell bedtime stories. Brother asks, does everyone die?"

Justine Chang will be reading passages from her latest work in progress, a book of text and image titled, What The Books Don't Tell You. It is a story of a family living in the United States two generations after the Korean War. She embarked on this project as a way of preserving the smaller gestures from the past, both of her own and of her community. The work draws from family histories, language dictionaries, and various archives to create a nuanced engagement with the history of immigration in the United States. She places attention on the often misplaced details, while also reflecting on abundance and poverty, language barriers and mistranslation, and on small moments that change the course of a bloodline.

The texts are short lyrical pieces that play out as a series of memories, while the images are line drawings, impressions often based on historical photographs. She will delve into how text and image collaborate, while touching on some of her research done as the Boston Literary District's Writer-in-Residence and how it has informed her work. In particular, she will focus on a remarkable portfolio of photographs taken by Percival Lowell in Korea and an accompanying book about his journey that she found in the Rare Book Collection of the Boston Athenæum. Lowell, who most people know as an astronomer, also travelled extensively to the Far East and his book on Korea was the first, and remains one of the richest, English-language accounts of the opening up of the Hermit Kingdom.

Justine Chang is an artist and writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. With a decade of professional expertise in photography, she has worked with the local artists and galleries in Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, and in Seoul, South Korea. Most recently, she was the Writer-in-Residence for the Boston Literary District in partnership with Emerson College. Her commitment to equal access and representation in the arts has expanded through her experiences as adjunct faculty, translator, and teaching artist. Her photography has been featured in various publications including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Der Greif, Aint-Bad, Phases Magazine, and Thisispaper. She has also exhibited at the Woods-Gerry Gallery, the Red Eye Gallery, and the Korean Cultural Society of Boston.

This event is part of “​Women, Agency, and the Meaning of Home," ​in honor of Women's History Month and International Women's Day (March 8). Join us for our next two events that examine female agency and multicultural identities:

​The Body Papers: A Memoir
Book talk with author and scholar Grace Talusan in conversation with Elif Armbruster
​12-1 pm on ​March 3, 2020

​A Conversation on Female Agency: Displacement and Power During Political Turmoil
​Discussion with authors Marjan Kamali and Katrin Schumann
6-7 pm ​on March 12, 2020

Assistive Listening Devices image

Most programs held in the Bayard Henry Long Room on the Athenaeum's first floor are amplified and assistive listening devices are available for patron use.

ASL Interpretation image

To request ASL interpretation services for any of the Athenaeum's programs, please contact Hannah Weisman at 617-720-7617 or weisman@bostonathenaeum.org.