Kyung-sook Shin’s Please look after mom (or mother) wins the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2011

In late October last year, twelve books from across Asia were longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and in January, they were whittled down to an unusually long shortlist of seven. Today, one emerged the winner: And woo hoo! It’s our Shadow team’s pick, Kyung-sook Shin’s Please look after mom (or mother).

Now, I’ll have to wait to see what the judges say about their choice, but there you have it!

Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize 2011 Badge

Image by Matt Todd of A Novel Approach

In the meantime, below is just a little info about the judges … and, in particular, about the chair, Razia Iqbal.


The judges for the 2011 prize were Razia Iqbal (Chair), BBC Special Correspondent; Chang-rae Lee, Pulitzer-prize finalist & author of The Surrendered; and Vikas Swarup author of Q&A, the movie adaptation Slumdog Millionaire.

Iqbal said recently that her criteria for judging were:

the quality of the reading experience; that you feel that the book coheres, that the structure of the novel was coherent.

The books she liked most when growing up were, she said, those with links to the Asian continent, such as books by Salman Rushdie and Hanif Kureishi who

wrote about what it meant to be Asian in a globalised world, what it meant to come from a multi-cultural city like London, which I could relate to. Their writing incorporated elements of polyphony and hybridity which were part of my own experience, whilst people like James Baldwin and Richard Wright reflected what it was to be an outsider. Literature allows you to navigate your place in the world in a profound way for a lot of people.

For reviews of all books by our Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize team, see my Man Asian Literary Prize page.

18 thoughts on “Kyung-sook Shin’s Please look after mom (or mother) wins the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2011

    • Thanks Stefanie … but I think that would be too stressful. I much prefer hiding in the shadows! And really, so many of the books were very good that it’s a little weird (though also satisfying) we came to the same conclusion.

  1. That makes it easy on my TBR (not that there aren’t plenty of other worthy contenders on the list). Kyun-Sook Shin sweeps both the important Jury and the official Jury.

    Great job and thanks for highlighting these novels!

    • Ha ha, Kerry … It’s a fascinating choice among fascinating books. I love the way she told this story … The form and voices are pretty original and keep you thinking the whole time you’re reading.

      • Sue, I was happy about the official judges’ choice and the shadow jury’s choice, as well. The book was published last year in the USA and was the first novel by a S. Korean to make the bestseller lists. It is the paperback edition that will be published here in a few weeks.

  2. Great and enriching work Shadow Team and thank you for sharing such a sea of information. I loved the idea of this book. The absent, unappreciated mother. Probably strikes a familiar chord!

    • Oh dear Catherine – the absent or unappreciated? I’m sure you weren’t/aren’t an absent mother and I hope you are not unappreciated but it’s a really intriguing book that has, in fact, garnered a wide range of opinions. I’d love to see what you think!

  3. Sue, if you did not see this article, I think you might be interested in a comment Shin makes about her novel.

    >While the novel taps into a unique Korean cultural characteristic known as “han” — which translates as a profound and abiding sadness — she says the story of the mother shows another side of “han.”

    >”Han is not so much about sadness as it is about getting back up again from your sadness and Park Son-yo (the protagonist of the novel) best represents this,” she says.<

    I was unfamiliar with the concept of han, but to me the survival of the determined mother and the success of her children (in some ways important to their mother) defined the novel more than the suffering.

    • Thanks Fay … I really liked that discussion of Han … It shows how differently cultures view things. Similar basic emotions but with subtly different philosophies behind them.

  4. I just finished reading Please Look After Mom, and thanks Sue for recommending a good read. I thought it was a great story. It was interesting way to narrate the story by having different family members reflect on their memories. Mom was only considered when she was no longer there for the family. Mom was a good women and they all realized all too late.


  5. This is a beautiful, very well written story about family and especially a mother’s love and sacrifice. It kept me interested right up to the tearjerking end. WONDERFUL!

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