Pachinko Book Club Questions and Discussion Guide.

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In this Pachinko reading guide, you’ll find Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko book club questions, a summary, best quotes, and my top 3 recommended similar reads that will aid your book club discussion. 

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Pachinko Summary

pachinko book club questions

Set during the years of 1910 and 1989, Pachinko is based on five generations of a Korean family that migrated to Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea and speaks about their survival through World War II. 

The Baek family were exiled from a home they never knew and left for a new land that hardly accepted them.

As Korean immigrants in Japan, they face discrimination, stereotyping, racism and struggle to identity themselves even after generations, yet they continue to fight for their destiny and survival in Japan. 

Pachinko is a hard hitting novel with the aim to be the voice of Koreans that struggled in Japan during WWII and share their experiences many know nothing about. 

Pachinko Book Club Questions for Discussion.

  1. Is Pachinko your first Korean-lit novel? If so, how was your experience reading it?
  2. The word Pachinko means a “gambling machine”. What are your thoughts on the title of this book?
  3. “History failed us, but no matter.” Why do you think Min Jin Lee specifically chose this as the opening for the book. Discuss the relevance of this in the story. 
  4. Do you think Koreans residing in Japan still feel discriminated in this modern day and age? Share your thoughts on this.
  5. What are your thoughts on Sunja’s family being in exile and what they had to go through?
  6. Migrants and their generational struggles are often not spoken enough about. Did the book change the way you think about migration? Share your thoughts on this.
  7. Did you already know about the Korean immigrants in Japan and the Japanese occupation of Korea before you read the book? Share your knowledge and opinions on the historical events that took place.
  8. After reading this book, did your opinion on being a “family” change? Discuss.
  9. “You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.” Discuss your thoughts on this quote and the way it is applied in the book. 
  10. “We cannot help but be interested in the stories of people that history pushes aside so thoughtlessly,” Do you believe pachinko was one of the books that try to reclaim those stories?
  11. As this book shares generational stories, what are your thoughts on the way Min Jin Lee portrayed the story across the generations?
  12. What are your thoughts on Noa that tried to identify himself as Japanese instead of Korean to fit in? Do you think this often happens among people and immigrants, especially these days?
  13. Which character you liked the most or relate to the most?
  14. Is there a character or incident that you wished was more described or spoken about? Which one and why?
  15. Pachinko is a book highly informative on the Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII that needed to be known more about. What are the historical facts you learnt from this book? Were there any that surprised you?
  16. Pachinko has many quote worthy lines, which quotes stood out to you the most and why?
  17. Sunja was shamed for her pregnancy in the novel. Discuss in what ways that was wrong and the way Sunja should’ve dealt with it.
  18. Do you think the family’s lives got better or worse after they migrated to Japan during WWII? Discuss the ways it affected them as a family.
  19. The themes of this book include the importance of cultural and racial identity. Discuss how are things different today compared to the times in world war II (or how they are not any different).
  20. What are your thoughts on the ending of this novel?

5 Best Quotes from Pachinko

“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko.

“A man must learn to forgive—to know what is important, that to live without forgiveness was a kind of death with breathing and movement.”

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko.

“Patriotism is just an idea, so is capitalism or communism. But ideas can make men forget their own interests. And the guys in charge will exploit men who believe in ideas too much.” 

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko.

“Her father had taught her not to judge people on such shallow points: What a man wore or owned had nothing to do with his heart and character.”

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko.

“Neither had realised the loneliness each had lived with for such a long time until the loneliness was interrupted by genuine affection.”

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko.

3 Books Like Pachinko To Read Next

Beasts of a Little Land, By Juhea Kim

During the Japanese occupation of Korea in 1917, a starving Korean hunter saves the life of a Japanese soldier which results in their fates being interconnected.

Based on mid 20th century Korean history, this novel has themes of love, war, country, politics and redemption. 

With unforgettable characters and an amazing story, this debut book shares similarity with Pachinko as it’s about Korean history, fighting for one’s country and their own identity. 

Black Flower, By Young-Ha Kim

A Korean history novel set in another land. Post Russo-Japanese War when Koreans had to move out of their country for survival, several of them left for Mexico where they had to work under terrible conditions as farmers.

A story of love during exile, politics and searching for freedom away from home, this tale has the same base as Pachinko when it comes to Korean history and surviving away from one’s country. 

Mornings in Jenin, By Susan Abulhawa 

A multi-generational story about a Palestinian family that were forcibly removed from their village by the settler occupation of Israel. They’re left to live in the tents of Jenin Refugee Camp in their own homeland. 

Based on one of the most unforgettable ongoing occupation of Palestine, this deep and heart wrenching book not only shares the historic and ongoing experiences of people but also makes us think about the political and humanitarian situation of people in our lifetimes.

It shares similarity with Pachinko as this story, too, yearns for freedom for one’s land, home and people. 

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