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FICTION

Brave New Family: My Happy House by Gong Ji-Young

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.1 Autumn 2008
  • byJung Yeo-ul
My Happy House
2008
344pp.

The surging divorce rate and disintegration of the traditional family is no longer an abnormality. The collapse of family, however, is turning out new breeds of family structures. Alternative forms, including remarriage by divorced parents, multicultural families, and oneperson families, are on the steady rise.
Gong Ji-Young’s My Happy House involves one extreme family where a mother raises three children, whose fathers are different from one another. In fact, the story itself mirrors Gong’s real life; she is raising her three kids from three different partners. What is more important than the parallel between the fictional character and Gong’s peculiar private life is that her novel captures the problems plaguing the Korean family system. Statistics shows that 74.3 percent of children whose parents get divorced end up living with their mothers and 85 percent of them fail to receive any child support from their fathers. The traditional concept of family remains highly conservative.

The very symbol of such rigid notions about family is a Korean expression that roughly translates into “defective family,” a concept that acknowledges the family whose biological parents maintain marriage as the only legitimate one. The stigmatizing expression of “defective family” should be eliminated, and Gong does the job in her novel by bringing to life children who never suffer from defects and anxiety.

The mother feels deeply guilty about her three divorces, but her children remain cool and collected. “I’m sorry I haven’t told you this before, but I got a divorce,” she says, with tears streaming down her face. Her daughter’s reply is short yet to the point: “But why do you feel sorry for me?” My Happy House is Gong’s humane tribute to those brave families who try to build up their sweet home, not by blood but by love, despite the painfully unhappy situation. 

Author's Profile

Gong Ji-Young has received the Amnesty International Special Media Award, Catholic Literature Award, and the Yi Sang Literary Award. Her best-known works include Our Happy Time, The Crucible, and My Sister, Bongsoon. Her books in translation include Our Happy Time (Atria Books/Marble Arch Press, 2014), Nos Jours Heureux (Philippe Picquier, 2014), L'échelle de Jacob (Philippe Picquier, 2016), and Ma très chère grande soeur (Philippe Picquier, 2018).