Over this past week, I’ve been immersed in Pachinko. To be specific, I had the fortunate assignment to read Min Jin Lee’s masterful novel Pachinko, which is a family saga about the world of Koreans living in Japan.
I’ve always loved the sprawling social novels of the 19th century – Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Hard Times, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
In the 20th century, perhaps the most famous social novel was John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which exposed the hardships of migrant farm workers. These are all works that explore pressing social problems through the lives of characters. They’re also sometimes called protest novels, because they often aim to expose a social injustice.