Atria, Jun 2004, 23.00, 288 pp.
Twins Inah and Yunah were born in 1973 in South Korea to married schoolteachers. The sisters enjoyed a happy early childhood in their homeland until Inah was hideously scarred during a scalding accident that left her visage permanently marred. Knowing that Inah would forever be ostracized in Korean society, the family immigrates to the United States moving into the Korean-American community of Flushing, Queens.
Over a decade passes and Inah drops out of graduate school at Oxford to first backpack in India and then to relocate in Italy. Yunah follows her sibling to Italy, but the reception is cold and angry as Inah does not want her here. Now the once close twins argue over their future, their past, their father, and finally the disfigurement that made them no longer identical.
TRANSLATIONS OF BEAUTY is a delightful family drama that focuses on the long term impact of a trauma on twins. The story line alternates between Yunah narrating glimpses back to their childhood with her providing a present day description of the Italian encounter of trouble between them. The ill winds into this Korean house seems overextended yet provides a deep look at battling loving twins from Yunah's respective. Though more of Inah's sullen perspective even if it is just what is going on inside her head, would have provided a stronger character study, fans will appreciate this deep look at discord in a Korean family.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner