Frequently asked questions
How did you get the idea for this book?
Taking my kids to South Korea in April 2019 was such a meaningful experience, especially when we visited the old neighborhood in Seoul where their grandfather (my husband's father) grew up. We went to the same marketplace where my husband's grandmother once sold fabrics for hanboks, and my daughter got to pick out a hanbok there. After we returned, I wanted to craft a story that connected her hanbok to her family history.
Is this book based on a true story?
Yes! Although the book is a fictional account, my paternal grandmother and my husband’s paternal grandmother did indeed escape from North to South korea, sell hanbok fabrics, and wore them on their bodies while traveling. They told us many harrowing stories about their wartime struggles. These stories always stuck with me, and I wanted to honor them by including elements of their lives in this book.
Pictured is my husband's grandmother, who was extremely stylish, well into her 80's. You can see her purple sheer hanbok and blinged out glasses here. We miss you, Grandma Paik!
What is a hanbok and why is it special?
A hanbok is a traditional two-piece Korean dress worn for formal or semi-formal traditional occasions and events such as festivals, celebrations, and ceremonies.
The women's hanbok has a short jacket called ‘jeogori’ paired with a full skirt that is called ‘chima’.
Hanbok have been worn by the Korean people for thousands of years. Historically, the patterns and the colors on hanbok represented the ceremonial nature of the hanbok and social status. (Korean royalty and aristocracy wore different hanbok than the commoners did.) Peonies, for example, are often found on wedding dresses to represent honor and wealth, while dragons and phoenixes were Korean hanbok patterns reserved for royal clothing.
What do you have in common with Hannah, the main character?
Growing up Korean American, I often felt different from my mostly Caucasian classmates. I remember in third grade, we had a culture day, and I was so nervous about wearing a hanbok dress to school. As I mentioned in my author's bio, I also used to be a fan dancer. Sometimes I was embarrassed to perform something so distinctly Korean in front of American audiences because I didn't think they would understand or appreciate the beauty of something so foreign to them. But I was also very proud to carry on the traditions and culture of my family. There are many moments through the years, where I had the opportunity to be a cultural ambassador - stepping forward like Hannah does in the book.
What was it like working as a mother-daughter team on this book?
It was really a dream come true! I always admired my mom's artistic talent, yet she had to place her art career on hold. Mom and I had always talked about collaborating on a book someday. When COVID-19 hit, and we were all stuck at home, it allowed us the extra time to work on a project like this. She always raised me to pursue my dreams, and this is one of them!
What's your favorite part of the book?
The part that stands out to me is when great grandma is wrapping the fabrics around her body. It is such a sad and scary time for the family, having to leave their home and find safety from the war. But her actions are also filled with hope for the future and set in motion a better life for all of them. It really shows a mother's love and bravery in a desperate situation.
Do you have any advice for first-time writers?
Keep a notebook, and jot down any and all ideas. I kept one next to my bed, because my best ideas came to me right before I fell asleep! Write about something that is meaningful to you. That is how the best stories are formed: a mix of experience, heart, and passion. Finally, read a lot of books. This is how you expand your knowledge, get ideas, and become a better writer.
What message do you hope your readers come away with after reading this book?
I think the most important message is to be proud of your family's culture, acknowledge the sacrifices of those that came before you, and be curious about your connection to the past. In Hannah's case, the special connection to her great grandmother was the hanbok dress; but I hope readers look for their own unique family stories to find sources of strength and inspiration.