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Berkeley Author’s Life Story Is Not Her Life Story

In Nami Mun’s debut novel, Miles from Nowhere, a 13 year old Korean immigrant girl runs away from her dysfunctional Bronx home and embarks on a harrowing journey through the streets of 1980s New York. Though Mun herself left home at a young age, she wouldn’t consider her novel autobiographical.

“If I had to put it in numbers, I’d say maybe one percent of the book is autobiographical. Yes, I left home at a young age but I chose not to write about the actual events of my own life as a runaway. I kept those actual events in a ‘reserve’ of sorts and used my knowledge of them to strengthen the narrative artifice I was creating,” Mun says.

But before anyone makes strained comparisons to the James Frey fiction-as-fact-or-vice-versa controversy, Mun is one of the most accomplished debut fiction authors to hit the shelves in a long time. An MFA from the University of Michigan, Mun has won a Pushcart Prize, a Hopwood Award for fiction, scholarships and residencies from Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony, and Tin House named her an Emerging Voice of 2005.

The book is getting just as much critical acclaim. People Magazine made the novel a four star pick, calling it “a searing debut.” With similarly effusive advance praise from bestselling and well-regarded writers like Peter Ho Davies (The Welsh Girl) and Janet Fitch (White Oleander), Mun seems poised to author non-autobiographical novels for years to come.

Mun reads from her novel, Miles from Nowhere, at Book Passage in the Ferry Building tonight at 6pm.

Courtesy of Riverhead Books