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Younghill Kang

Born in 1903 in what is now known as North Korea, Younghill Kang was educated in Korea, and Japan. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1921, finishing his education in Boston and Cambridge. A prolific writer, Kang published articles in The New York Times, The Nation, The Saturday Review of Literature, and theEncyclopædia Britannica, among others. While teaching English at New York University, he became friends with fellow professor Thomas Wolfe, who introduced him to Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins. Kang’s first book, The Grass Roof, was published by Scribner’s in 1931. A children’s book based on Kang’s early life entitled The Happy Grove was published in 1933, and East Goes West was released in 1937. Throughout his life, Kang was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including two Guggenheim fellowships, the New School’s Louis S. Memorial Prize, and an honorary doctorate in literature from Koryo University. Au Matin du Pays Calme, the French translation of The Grass Roof, won Le Prix Halperine Kaminsky, France’s annual award for best book in translation. Kang died in 1972 at his home in Satellite Beach, Florida.


East Goes West

Kaya Press 1997

Now available from Penguin-Random House. 

Originally published in 1937, East Goes West is an extraordinary account of immigrant life in the 1920s written by the first Korean American novelist, Younghill Kang. Part picaresque adventure, part shrewd social commentary, East Goes West casts a sharply satirical eye on the demands and perils of assimilation as it follows the travels of the young, idealistic Chungpa Han through the United States and Canada. In its moving humanization of the often neglected Asian communities on the fringes of industrialization, East Goes West is an American classic. It is an invaluable resource for those interested in immigrant narratives, Asian diasporas, and twentieth-century American literature. Kaya’s edition provides never before compiled supplementary materials on Kang’s life and work, including a comprehensive bibliography, an annotated chronology, and a critical essay.


“Kang is a born writer, everywhere he is free and vigorous: he has an original and poetic mind, and he loves life.”
— Thomas Wolfe

“The story of Chungpa Han is truly, like the old New York he encounters, as ‘million-hued as a dream.’ A wonderfully resplendent evocation of a newcomer’s America, Younghill Kang’s classic novel is as vibrant and pointed in its vision today as it was 60 years ago, and may prove to be one of our most vital documents. East Goes West deserves rediscovery.”
— Chang-rae Lee, Author of Native Speaker

“Kang is as wide-awake and high-spirited as he is scholarly and thoughtful, and he writes with a keen sense of character…. East Goes West offers a rich largesse of color and flavor, personality and impression and event. It is one of those rare books which will arouse interest, ring changes on laughter and leave its residue of thought.”
— New York Times Book Review

“In a welcome new edition of the work of the father of Korean American literature, Kaya’s East Goes West is a stunning testament to Younghill Kang’s indomitable spirit, his perspicacious eye, and his special mirth. The book provides us with a rare view of how urban American life was experienced—and critiqued—by Korean immigrants in the 1920s.”
— Elaine Kim, University of California, Berkeley

Younghill Kang news

Younghill Kang’s East Goes West and H.T. Tsiang’s The Hanging on Union Square are Republished as Penguin Classics!

We are glad to announce that Kaya’s classic publications of East Goes West by Younghill Kang and The Hanging on Union Square by H.T. Tsiang have now been republished as Penguin Classics! The republishing of these titles during Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, along with America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan and No-No Boy by John Okada, follows the tremendous positive […]