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Choi to the World

Fascinated by Patty Hearst’s kidnapping, a Brooklyn author explores her own Stockholm syndrome.

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‘I’m always hooked by these intriguing figures about whom you’re unable to discover almost anything,” says Susan Choi. That’s why the 34-year-old Brooklynite’s second novel, American Woman—an intense reimagining of the Patty Hearst affair—focuses less on the heiress than on her obscure Japanese-American captor. Choi found a kindred spirit in the character: “She was also running around with all these white middle-class kids,” she says. The daughter of a Korean professor and a Jewish mother from Detroit, Choi grew up in Houston among “holiday Jews,” where no one made much of her mixed background—it wasn’t until Yale (not quite the Symbionese Liberation Army, but still) that she came up against “aggressive, reductive identity politics.” Like Hearst’s real-life harborer Wendy Yoshimura (now a 60-year-old Berkeley artist), Choi’s character Jenny goes to prison, then settles for a bourgeois life. Recently married, Choi is mellowing, too, though happily for us her prose remains radically intact.


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