Book by Jae-Ha Kim

By Jae-Ha Kim
February 27, 2014

My father loved books. When we were new to the U.S. and didn’t have a lot of money for toys, my parents took us to the library, where we would take out the maximum number of books each week. The librarians all knew us and liked us. And I do believe that those trips helped instill in me a love of both literature and libraries.

Like a lot of Koreans of their age, my parents survived war and led very difficult lives. Books were an escape. Some of my father’s favorite authors were Shakespeare, Descartes, Dostoevsky, Kant and Tolstoy. Already fluent in several languages, he wanted to learn Russian so he could read Nabokov in the author’s native tongue.

He used to joke that had he learned Russian instead of English, we may have immigrated to the (then) Soviet Union instead of America.

When my father died, he was buried with letters from each of us so that we would always be with him. And in his hands, he clutched one of his favorite books.

After the funeral, my mother gave me some of the Korean/English dictionaries that my father used early on. I look at them and wonder how — as a young boy — he taught himself to read and write a new language that is completely different from Korean.

When I hear my son beg me to take him to the library, it fills my heart that he has inherited a love of literature from a grandfather who he never had a chance to meet.

Life goes on.

© 2014 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved

Comments (23)

  1. jaeun2 says:

    wow so moving. and so amazing so he learned so many languages. and what a great way to always remember your father.. through his dictionaries.

  2. weber_312 says:

    Amazing, driven what a story!!! No stopping your dad from learning. We adore libraries! #hiddentreasure

  3. anja_mari says:

    Books are the miracle of human brain, the most amazing compilation of its exploration! my house was filled with them as my dad lives on books not air.. my mom jokes they can always survive the entire winter if there is no heating… Books are my childhood too I love your love for books

  4. heatherannblackwell says:

    Amazing story! When my son took an interest in books my heart just about burst! We now spend at least an hour everyday reading books (he’s 15 months). He brings me the same books to read over and over sometimes lol. It’s great though. So sad how lots of kids these days don’t have a book focus at home. Thanks for posting this story about your dad, very inspiring!

  5. concorexhappiness2x says:

    Tearied over here ♥♥♥ enjoyed this very much and brought back memories of my dad pulling me on the sled to the library in winter

  6. secondcitymom says:

    Your dad was a smart man. Literacy brings knowledge. It’s amazing that he taught himself to read in a different language. What you did for his burial was so touching. Your words will be with him forever.

  7. hennablossom says:

    Oh wow, I didn’t know he was buried with letters and a book. ❤️ He was special. And definitely made me feel so special. I wish so much that he could have met the boys. It woulda been some serious mutual love. 🙂

  8. littlebitbrit says:


  9. willowsandvikings says:

    That’s an amazing story ♥♥ I’m always worried that we won’t have any more books in 20 years. I hope I’m wrong.

  10. juleeyoo8 says:

    This was lovely to read, thank you for sharing this story with us.

  11. thanks for making me cry…. again. 😉

  12. Francisca Susanto says:

    Lol… Wonder what your Russian name would have been!

  13. Sahar Mirza says:

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