Frankenstein Book Report: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982. Translated by Jamie Chang

A phenomenal tampon campaign (don't you dare laugh).

The title (fictional) character Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 [(c, Korean) Cho Nam-Joo, 2016. Tr (c, English) 2020 Jamie Chung, Seven Stories] was 34 when the book was published and is turning 40 soon. I remember being 34 and feeling like I had to make all my life decisions by then because: babies—did I want them? Did I not? I had my kid at 40, and that was really pretty underwhelming after all my thinking about it from the POV of vaginal age.

I hate that this book is necessary. I hate that it feels like an “easy” rendering of women’s issues (pun intended), and I hate that the words we use to define women’s liberation are all complicated by internecine internet wars. We break the words we use to describe our emancipation, down to the micron of the letter of the syllable of the sememe of the word of the phrase of the sentence of the…

I love that this book is so readable. I love that the moral of the story appears to be so obvious as to make anglophone readers believe it’s culturally specific to a country that’s “way behind” in socioeconomic markers of freedom. Like the obviousness of it must mean it is profound in Korea. Americans would be idiots for thinking that. This story just espouses another version of putting up with men’s shit than that which we are used to in the US (for one). And I quite like the foreignness of it. I like knowing how other people put up with their men’s shit.

I know that books structured like this do exist: a narrative embedded within a narrative that you don’t notice till the last five pages when the narration zooms out. I don’t know if a book like that also includes a literal spiritual possession—the title character appears at one point to be possessed by a dead spirit. It reminds me of the film 301/302 (1995: Park Chul-soo). God what a great movie. Go rip it from the cloud.

There was a really effective tampon ad some years back—so effective I can’t remember what brand. In the campaign, some eggheads set up an info desk in a commercial gym, and invited members to participate in a survey. There, the members were asked to say as many words for “penis” as they could think of. Everyone who answered got really competitive, and couldn’t stop thinking up new examples. Then they were asked to do the same with the word “vagina” and got a totally different set of responses. No one wanted to play anymore, and the words were so few as to make everyone uncomfortable.

This book is that campaign.