Re-visioning gendered folktales in novels by Mia Yun and Nora Okja Keller

Sung-Ae Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


When contemporary Korean-American authors Mia Yun and Nora Okja Keller incorporate and retell folktales within their novels, they at once draw on the cultural assumptions conserved and disseminated through these tales and engage critically with their gendered discourses. As a store of cultural meanings that offer models for interpreting experience, folktales function as a form of cultural memory, but because they do so within a patriarchal culture, the type and range of meanings possible are challenged by focusing attention on women's perspectives. This study considers three novels which relate traditional stories to gender issues, and especially mother-daughter relations: Mia Yun's House of the Winds (1998), and two novels by Nora Okja Keller, Comfort Woman (1997) and Fox Girl (2002). By retelling the tales, but with substantive changes, and emphasizing that a retelling is an interpretation, the novels challenge the inherited cultural and literary tradition and suggest ways in which history and tradition can be reread.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-150
Number of pages20
JournalAsian Ethnology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • folktale retelling
  • gender hierarchy
  • diaspora
  • Korean-American fiction
  • women's stories
  • memory


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