The day I discovered pleasure was the day I lost my mother. It happened in the fall of 1995 when I was eleven years old. That afternoon I was standing naked on the balcony of our apartment, my skin…
The stories I love often have two qualities in common. First, they pose an interesting question that compels me to keep reading, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph. Second, they subvert my expectations in some way, so that by the time I finish reading the story, I’ve arrived at a place I didn’t anticipate being when I began. As a writer, I long to provide such experiences to those who come to my writing as a reader.
“Ready for School” came as a result of such an exercise. I wanted to play with our expectations about children and their desires, the presumed simplicity of their world. At the same time, I wanted to play with our expectations about a story’s form. “Ready for School” opens with the appearance of a confessional before it’s revealed to be a letter the narrator writes for her son’s kindergarten application. From that point on, the story becomes an answer to the question it explicitly poses: how do these seemingly disparate episodes divided by two decades come together in the context of this letter?
The narrator’s realization about the unknowability of others is what links these two events. And this realization propels the story to its resolution by prompting the narrator to recontextualize the event in her childhood and her relationship with her mother. I wanted to show how our present experience both frames and re-frames our past, and thus allow the reader to shift their own understanding of the story’s narrative and characters.
In an interview about the craft of writing, Robert Bowell said, “Part of what makes life compelling is that it’s impossible to fully know another person…the best fiction always finds some way of capturing that sense of not-knowing, not fully knowing, of only half-knowing.” This mystery of a person, this seemingly small yet irreducible world each of us represents, is what compels me to read and write.
HANA CHOI is a bilingual writer, translator, and attorney based in Seattle, Washington. She was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, where she studied film and worked as a staff writer at Cine21, a film magazine. Her fiction has received support from the Tin House Summer Workshop and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and her short story “The Last Home” was a semifinalist for the William Van Dyke Short Story Prize. “Ready for School” is her first published work of short fiction. You can find her on Twitter @hchoiwrites.