Miles from Nowhere

Miles from Nowhere

by Nami Mun

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A major voice in fiction debuts with the story of a teenage runaway on the streets of 1980s New York.

Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father's infidelity; he has left the family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of thirteen, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes the painful difficulties of a life lived on the margins. Joon's adolescent years take her from a homeless shelter to an escort club, through struggles with addiction, to jobs selling newspapers and cosmetics, committing petty crimes, and finally toward something resembling hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440633461
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/26/2008
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 370,639
File size: 199 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Nami Mun was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up there and in Bronx, New York. She has worked as an Avon Lady, an activities coordinator for a nursing home, a photojournalist, and a criminal investigator. After earning her GED, she graduated from UC Berkeley, and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan. A recipient of a Pushcart Prize, she has published in numerous journals including the 2007 Pushcart Prize anthology, The Iowa Review, Tin House, Evergreen Review, Witness, and other journals. She currently lives in Chicago.

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Miles from Nowhere 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
jessie2 More than 1 year ago
I love the way this book was written but not sure if I liked the book. I think the author has a lot of potential, the characters in the book were not likable, but I don't think they were intended to be. The book was disjointed and ended ubruptly.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the 1980s her father abandoned twelve years old Korean-American Joon-Mee and her mother; he was unable to cope with the increased craziness of his wife and still held her culpable for their leaving their country four years earlier. When her mom turns even more helpless with her midnight hole digging activity and is in denial that she everything is messed up except for the humiliation and economic disaster, Joon-Mee flees the Bronx for Manhattan. The runaway becomes a hooker and escort.
Soon heroin becomes part of the repertoire. She makes friends on the streets, but understands the code that no one has your back although male prostitute Wink mentors her on surviving the ¿Johns, the homeless, and the competitors. Benny, who has a regular job as an orderly, is nice to her when he is not too high; when he is he can be a nasty cutter. Life on the street is rough and fast with even the strong ultimately unable to survive.
This is not an easy read, but is an extremely deep look at life for a runaway young teen. The story line mostly focuses on Joon-Mee but also enables the reader to see how her mentor Knowledge and others survive at shelters and on the meanest streets. This is cutthroat capitalism at its purest; just like the extreme right wing envision. Readers will be stunned with the graphic details of survival in an urban jungle in which your stalking predator may be sleeping in the cot next too or may be your latest John.
Harriet Klausner
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Banish the myth or legend about the Korean immigrant family who arrives in America to "make good," to succeed in achieving the American Dream! Instead welcome to the world of one particular Korean-American girl, Joon-Mee, a 12 year-old girl whose mother descends into the world of madness after Joon's father disappears.

Almost every reader has seen and heard about the world of homeless adults. Now Joon-Mee describes for us her audacious life in a world of homeless young adults or teens who sometimes sleep in the threatening world of public shelters, who virtually overnight become adult survivors of just about every ruse to manipulate and destroy their young minds and spirits.

You'll meet the character Knowledge, who always has a bigger and better plan to make enough money to sleep off the streets and to buy drugs; including the theft of a huge Christmas tree; Wink a boy prostitute, characters from an escort service where Joon is introduced to the world of prostitution, and more.

When Joon decides to go straight, she meets up with an uncompromising employment counselor and a well-intentioned neighbor who offers consolation about a future whose dreams and goals seem impossible.

Miles from Nowhere doesn't build up to a grand crescendo but instead steadily infuses the drama with hints of deep, fragile insecurity lurking behind surface toughness visible to observers of this very cold, hard world. A young child, really, has no other options - the proverbial but too true reality of Joon's world. But the Joon Mee begins to undergo an unexplained metamorphosis, and the reader can actually feel her tension and anguish as she attempts to leave an imprisoned, lethal world.

Nami Mun's language flows from lyrical prose-like descriptions to authentic dialogue that alerts the reader to realize this young author knows this tragic world. It's that realization confirmed over and over again that makes this a riveting, stunning read that evokes emotional reaction and numerous questions about choice, despair, survival and hope!

A wise, literate, fresh story from an author to closely follow in the days to come!

Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on November 3, 2008
ijustgetbored on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mun¿s novel defies a traditional storyline again and again, with its episodic breaks that lead the reader to realize that there is little coherence to the life of Joon, the daughter of middle-middle class immigrants who choses to break from the literally sick life she lives at home, abandoning painful coherence for the often-unpleasant upheaval of the streets of New York. In each episode, we find Mun trying on a new self, seeing how much of her still-nascent self (Joon is only 13 at the outset of the book) she is willing to sacrifice in any given situation: her autonomy? Her body? Her family? Her sobriety? Her children? These are the challenges we meet in the episodes; there are no Dickensian light-hearted romps through poverty here. This is the glittery, slick world of the early 1980s, and this is its beyond-seamy underbelly.
TrishNYC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Miles From Nowhere tells the story of 13 year old Joon who runs away from a troubled home. With her father abandoning the family, her mother becomes mentally and emotionally absent. As Joon tries to find her place in the world, she increasingly feels no connection with her mother. She eventually decides to run away from home and the book details her life on the street and her struggle for survival. Shortly after leaving home, she ends up in a homeless shelter where she meets some very colorful characters by the name of Wink and Knowledge. The way in which these two character were introduced, I assumed that they would be an integral part of her life. But just as quickly as they are introduced, they are out of her life without much explanation. Joon then drifts from place to place and situation to situation without finding any permanance. She works as a dance hostess, an Avon lady and a bevy of other random jobs. Somewhere along the way Joon picks up a nasty drug habit. She tries to quit but finds herself drawn back by her boyfriend and continues to spiral deeper and deeper into a narcotics fueled existence with its attendant consequences.This a heartwrenching story because Joon is a victim of neglectful parents. One is exceedingly moved by the things that such a young child is forced to undergo all because her parents are lost in their own worlds. Her childhood is destroyed and she is forced to raise herself into adulthood. The vast majority of Joon's life is spent in hopeless and bleak conditions. One of the main flaws of the book is that it is told in an episodic manner and this literary device eventually weakens the story. One is never able to fully connect with the story because just as you begin to get into some area of her life, you are immediately thrust into another chapter that deals with something unrelated. I think that the book may have also benefitted from having each chapter dated so that we are able to tell when exactly in her life the tale being narrated fits in. At the conclusion, the book just ended. There was no real wrap up, it was just over. But as much as the end left something to be desired, I appreciated the fact that Joon does not have a rags to riches end. Her future is uncertain but hopeful. You see that she is beginining to make strides into a better life but she is still perched at the edge.
reina10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although an easy read, this is a complex story of a girl trying to find love while search to find her place in the world. From the beginning, the story captivates your imagination. The author convincingly tells the story of a girl named Joon, and her struggles to overcome a dysfunctional upbringing, feelings of abandonment, and life on the streets of New York. At the age of 13, Joon's father abandons her and her mentally ill mother. Because of her mental illness, her mother is not able to emotionally cope with her husband¿s departure. Consequently, she shuts down emotionally and is not able to take care of Joon. Perceiving her mother¿s emotional shutdown as another form of abandonment, Joon leaves home and begins her life on the streets. She survives all kinds of horrible situations- everything from prostitution to drug addiction- as she tries to understand her past. This narrative is the story of millions of kids living on the streets, but at the same time it is beautifully unique. Some reviewers criticize the book, because some parts don't fall neatly into place, and the reader is left to wonder about what happened. I did not mind this because life does not always fall neatly into place, and many times we are left without answers.
Staciele on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC of this book from First Reads. This book will be available in January 2009.This was a fast read, but an extremely depressing story. Joon is a teenage runaway in NYC in the 80's who falls into prostitution, drugs, and alcohol. She is frequently beaten, homeless, and continues to make poor decisions. Aside from all that, the reader is still drawn to Joon and her story is hard to put down. You want to think that she will kick her drug habit, find a job and maybe even reconnect with her parents. I won't spoil the storyline, but will say she does find some comfort by the end of the story in someone least expected. There is a hope for Joon at the end which is much needed. The story at times turned vulgar and gruesome. Joon confronts abortion as well as serious "cutting". These were the most difficult for me, personally, to read through. One passage I connected with was this...He had no idea that grief was a reward. That it only came to those who were loyal, to those who loved more than they were capable of. The story was one that I wanted keep reading, although the storyline wasn't enough to make it a fabulous read for me. The writer has a great talent for making the scenes believeable and visible to the reader. I appreciated the writer's talent to tell Joon's story in such a painful and poetic way. I do think this will be a much talked about book in 2009.
sfisk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fast read, somewhat stark, again the scenes and imagery are all too familiar, having lived in NY during the 80's.
efoltz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A teenage girl runs away from home after her father leaves and she realizes her mother can't function without her father. She encounters drugs, sex and an assortment of interesting people.
tara35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Miles from Nowhere is the story of Joon, a Korean-American teenage runaway living on the streets of New York in the 1980s. Miles from Nowhere is not easy reading, as young Joon works for little money at horrific jobs, and winds up living in squalor with people she cannot trust, doing drugs and hoping for more out of life. This hope is present throughout the novel and we begin to see what could be a better life for Joon. I think what is most mystifying from the outside in terms of teen runaways is why they have left home in the first place. I suppose my opinion is that a person would have to be pretty emotionally and/or physically terrorized to decide that living on the streets is a better option. I wish that aspect of Joon's life had been explored in more detail. This is a beautifully written novel, but I found myself comparing it to a memoir about a similar book I read about a teen runaway in New York. I'm sure that's not a fair comparison, but it seems in this case, for this subject matter, a memoir simply resonated more with me as a reader.
Bbexlibris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Joon sees herself as a regular Korean girl until her father leaves her mother, then her mom ignores her- to the extent of not talking to her, acknowledging her and pretending to be dead. Obviously a cry for help that a very young girl can only handle for so long. Joon goes to find her dad and try to get him to return, he turns her down as greener pastures seem to be calling his name. Soon after that, out of desperation Joon runs away. Her life on the streets goes from dark to darker and then when you think it couldn't get any worse it goes to darkest.There is plenty of sexual stuff, drugs, well really substance abuse of every type is discussed and abused in this book. Drug activity is high, very high, talk of shooting this, smoking that, cutting, being high, and all this as a young teen. Each time the reader can see the surface and almost feels allowed to come to breathe air, Joon dives down deeper to the despair of the reader.Well, I don't know what that description does for you, but if you don't like reading the description, don't read Miles from Nowhere. However to its defense, it is different than any book that I have been able to finish to this day. Several times I just couldn't handle the intensity of its graphic nature and had to skip a page, but I kept coming back because Nami Mun is an amazing writer, really she is great, almost humorous at times.I would love to read a lighter book by her, and really hope she chooses to go that route next time, more cultural and less mental illness-teen pregnancy-suicideish. Yes, so I did think her writing was very good, however not good enough for me to feel that I can recommend this with a clean conscience. I can't. I just say sit this one out and wait on what she brings to the table next time. That is my opinion anyway.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Miles From Nowhere is an unblinking, stark and disturbing story of Joon-Mee, a Korean girl who emigrated with her family to the Bronx and ran away at age 12 after her father left her and her mother to fend for themselves. The novel takes place in the late 1970s and early 1980s, at a time when NYC was an especially dangerous and unforgiving place to live. Joon encounters a variety of fellow misfits, who provide her with shelter, support, drugs, and loveless sex, and works as a prostitute, drug dealer, petty thief, and escort girl. Somehow she maintains enough optimism and manages to keep her head barely above water despite her precarious existence, believing that she can "choose my own beginning, one that was scrubbed clean of everything past."Much of the story is told in a matter of fact fashion, as she describes her life and those around her without much introspection or insight into the pain she must have experienced, which made the novel less depressing and more readable than it could have been. The ending, though, was quite surprising, and the story ends rather abruptly, which was less than satisfying. However, it was a fast paced and captivating read, and is definitely recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so beautiful, anyone who says it was hard to read simply wasn't paying attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the writing! Succinct and profound. Had to read some sentences over and over again. The really profound quotes sneak up on you! Highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey greenleaf
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micante mendoza More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up out of curiousity and I loved it. I would like to see more from Mun in the near future. Its a truly captivating story, one that had me reading from begining to end in one sitting. If you like such authors as Haruki Murakami and Ryu Murakami, you will probably enjoy Muns debut, Miles From Nowhere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book, definately different than what I usually read. Made me cry and cringe several times. Nice to see that someone with such a hard life at such an early age could succeed so greatly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book to be a great read! The best part of this book was that it was real. Mun's novel is written with such truth that it grips at your inner core to feel so much sorrow for Joon's character. One of my favorite exerts from the book in on page 285 where Joon talks about how she doesn't deserve to grieve her mother's death because she abandoned her when her mother needed her the most. And how much she would give just to see her again, even when her mother was at her worst emotional state. I think Joon's journey is exemplary of many who find themselves lost, scared, doubtful of their own abilities, and looking to fill some void within themselves. This book is a really great read that forces you to think if someone like Joon can make it alive through all of her struggles toward a hopeful future, why can't I?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
donnareads911 More than 1 year ago
Initially, the book started to draw me in, with its tale of Joon, and her introduction to the reader from a shelter, young, and alone. And then, as the story unfolds, it feels like an unstoppable downward rolling roller coaster, on a trip to see how low-down, dirty, drug grunged and strung out Joon can possibly get. I lost any sympathy I had begun to feel at the outset. Like the majority of seasons in the book, this one left me cold.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago