E. J. Koh

E. J. Koh is the author of The Magical Language of Others, which won a Washington State Book Award, Pacific Northwest Book Award, and Association for Asian American Studies Book Award, and was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. Koh is also the author of the poetry collection A Lesser Love, a Pleiades Press Editors Prize for Poetry winner. Koh’s work has appeared in AGNI, the Atlantic, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Poetry, Slate, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. Koh earned her MFA at Columbia University and her PhD at the University of Washington, and has received National Endowment for the Arts and MacDowell fellowships. She lives in Seattle, Washington.


  • Lyrical. . . . Kaleidoscopic. . . . explores how the past travels with us, and how we may find solace amid loss through relationships with others.

    —The Los Angeles Times

  • Beautiful. . . . it captures the very real whiplash of experience and emotion that comes with being human.

    —Seattle Times

  • A moving and lyrical debut novel. . . . Koh has fully harnessed her potential in this assured outing.

    —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

  • A mesmerizing, delicately crafted novel . . . .  Koh’s poetic prose delights with surprising metaphors and a cast of skillfully rendered characters.

    —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

  • Breaks new ground in understanding the Korean diaspora and the emancipating power of love.

    —Poets & Writers

  • As always, Koh’s singular grasp of language results in achingly beautiful writing.

    —San Francisco Chronicle, A Best Book of Fall

  • Kaleidoscopic. . . . exquisite. . . . A family saga which manages to infuse the historical with the mythic, blend the epic with the intimate. . . . extraordinary.

    —Lit Hub

  • A soaring multigenerational saga about learning to accept the past without letting it overshadow the future.

    —Foreward, starred review

  • Known for her poetic language, Koh is a master at weaving stories together, drawing tales of history and contemporary experiences into conversation to help us better understand who we are as humans.

    —Seattle Magazine

  • Richly multi-layered. . . . Koh’s work should resonate strongly with its focus on the desire of wanting to be seen and to belong.

    —Library Journal

  • Weaves personal narratives with historical events for a captivating, moving result.


  • Koh produces another Intricately accomplished, intimate melding of history and storytelling.


  • Another resounding triumph for E.J. Koh: a brave exploration of the complexities of the human experience and the impossible task of making peace with the past.

    —Book Page, Starred Review

  • A pleasure. . . . Koh’s writing has a natural elegance…. She cleverly and aptly captures a character’s essence with minimal description.


  • A poetic portrayal of the Korean diaspora in the U.S.. . . .The Liberators marks Koh as possibly the greatest chronicler of American han and as one of the most promising writers today as someone that has exhibited mastery across several genres.

    —Adroit Journal

  • Riveting….seamlessly blends the personal with the political.

    —The Hudson Review

  • Spare, beautiful and richly layered, The Liberators is dazzling.

    —Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage

  • E. J. Koh’s The Liberators is a sublime achievement for its deft political and emotional intelligence, its fine-tuned grasp of how a divided country divides lives through the generations. As in all great works of art, it uses the earthbound to transport us to a realm that feels like it’s been unperceived until now. As readers, we enter a theater of raw perception. A tree falls out of nowhere, a boar walks into a room unannounced, shadows shatter across a ceiling. Illumination can happen at any turn, reminding us that there’s always more world than we’ve had the capacity to see.

    —Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World

  • E. J. Koh brings a poet’s eye and sensibility to this remarkable novel. Here you will find characters and sentences that will leave you gasping for more. The Liberators captures grief and paranoia and a legacy of colonialism and violence with beauty and measure and grace.

    —Matthew Salesses, author of The Sense of Wonder

  • The beauty, intensity, and breadth of E. J. Koh’s work continues to transcend to new levels. Her language is transformative, making history more alive than we can feel and understand alone. Here is a chorus of lives and a song of peace. With The Liberators, Koh cements her place as one of the greatest Korean American writers of our time.

    —Joseph Han, author of Nuclear Family

  • An elegiac, ferocious, and deeply stirring novel. E. J. Koh melds image and story together precisely, holding up to light the history and making of Korea. I loved The Liberators not only for what it shows us about our world, but moreso, ourselves.

    —Crystal Hana Kim, author of The Stone Home and If You Leave Me

  • E. J. Koh brings her elegant poet’s hand to this intimate and expansive mythic novel of four generations of a family suffering sudden absences and war, seeking love and connection, weighted with the complexities of no easy answers. I didn’t want this book to end.

    —Jimin Han, author of The Apology

  • E. J. Koh’s poetic voice lends itself beautifully to the aching slowness of the search for healing. This book is about intergenerational trauma but it is also a celebration of intergenerational hope. Koh tackles history and sorrow with a delicate hand.

    —Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of The Sleep Watcher and Starling Days

  • The Liberators is a poetic breath, the language as haunting and epic as its story of a divided country’s legacy and impact on the Korean diaspora. I’ll read anything that E. J. Koh writes.

    —Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean

  • A piercing, patient debut by one of our finest chroniclers of American han. You won’t know what hit you until the final, perfect image.

    —Ed Park, author of Same Bed Different Dreams

  • As readers of E. J. Koh’s The Liberators we’re asked to occupy the boundaries of a divided country, the world of two colonizers, and a family’s eventual journey to America where the demarcation lines shift to the palm of one’s hand, in the heart and life lines, where the words for love and survival are spelled out in the hand, where Koh’s lyrical narrative hand is held over our hearts in undying allegiance

    —Shawn Wong, author of American Knees

  • Koh’s book is a tremendous gift. . . . A wonder.

    —The San Francisco Chronicle

  • A moving portrait of abandonment, forgiveness, and the strength of maternal love.


  • Poignant…. Koh writes beautifully of the sacrifices made for love and of the intergenerational tensions between a mother and daughter.

    —Oprah Daily

  • Stunning.

    —Alexander Chee, author of How To Write An Autobiographical Novel

  • A beautifully crafted saga.

    —Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know

  • Indisputably brilliant.

    —Jeannie Vanasco, author of Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl

  • Exquisite. . . . This memoir will pierce you.

    —Crystal Hana Kim, author of If You Leave Me

  • Koh remarkably and beautifully translates the language of mothers as the language of survivors.

    —Don Mee Choi, author of DMZ Colony

  • I could read this book a thousand times over.

    —Sarah Blake, author of Naamah

  • A lyrical and profound personal excavation.

    —Buzzfeed, Most Anticipated Book of the Year

  • Exquisite.

    —Literary Hub

  • Powerful. . . . Koh’s success as a poet shines through in the beauty and delicacy of her prose.

    —Book Riot

  • A cinematic and multigenerational saga.

    —The Stranger

  • Magnificent. . . . This is a memoir that needs to be read more than once.

    —International Examiner

  • A haunting, gorgeous narrative that is lonely but lushly told. . . . Brilliant.

    —The Star Tribune

  • A beautiful, scorching memoir.

    —Chicago Review of Books

  • Weaving the handwritten Korean letters, the English translations and longer chapters recounting her own story intertwined with those of the women who came before her, Koh (who is now based in Seattle) renders a uniquely beautiful work of literature.

    —The Seattle Times

  • Powerful…. [Koh] fearlessly grapples with forgiveness, reconciliation, legacy and intergenerational trauma.


  • A masterpiece, a love letter to mothers and daughters everywhere.

    —Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

  • A coming-of-age story, a family story, and a meditation on language and translation, with an emotional range to match.

    —Caitlin Horrocks, author of The Vexations

  • Give yourself over to her narrative territory and the resetting of the borders of lineage, language, and lives lost.

    —Shawn Wong, author of American Knees

  • It’s really beautiful. . . . A compassionate, vulnerable, sad, and loving book about mother-daughter relationships. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read it.

    —Amanda Toronto, WORD Bookstore, as heard on Minneapolis Public Radio

  • Fascinating.

    —Book Riot