Native Speaker Audiobook | Chang-Rae Lee | Audible.com
We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
 >   > 
Native Speaker | [Chang-Rae Lee]

Native Speaker

Narrator Henry Park, son of a Korean-American grocer, is an undercover operative for a vaguely sinister private intelligence agency. When he is assigned to spy on a rising Korean-American politician, Park finds his family, culture, and identity endangered by the secrets he uncovers.
Regular Price:$17.49
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

Audible Editor Reviews

At the beginning of Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker, Henry Park, a reserved second-generation Korean-American, is abandoned by his wife, tired as she is of his detached persona. Before she pursues a geographical distance to match their personal distance, she leaves behind a list of his character traits: "You are surreptitious, B+ student of life, illegal alien, emotional alien, Yellow peril: neo-American, stranger, follower, traitor, spy..." Native Speaker explores and locates these traits as symptoms of a larger immigrant experience, as well as charting Henry’s search for identity and development away from self-estrangement.

This beautifully-written debut novel (originally published in 1995) echoes Nella Larsen’s Passing in the depiction of social anonymity as a means of negotiating cultural assimilation - but with an intriguing twist: Henry works for a spy firm, where multiple identities and outsider-dom are requirements of the job as well as external indicators of his status as the conflicted son of first-generation immigrants. Lee’s use of language mirrors Henry’s almost fractured self-identity, moving back and forth from tense spy-speak to an almost elegiac expressivity. Whereas this diversity of voices could be problematic on page, David Colacci’s delivery serves both equally well and binds them together with cool authority, while leaving enough ambiguity to imply the element of performance involved in the travelling through different cultural identities. The precise, measured prose also reminds the listener of Kazuo ishiguro.

Among themes of race and belonging, the novel also touches on the corrosive effects of guilt. One of the sticking points between Henry and his wife is the couple’s different ways of coping with the death of their 7-year-old son, who was literally crushed to death under a pile of the neighboring – white - children. The sense of this death as payment for the sins of the father is implicit, as is the fear of passing on the worst remnants of cultural heritage from generation to generation: “The unspoiled must take leave of the world. They must bear the ills of their loved ones…we make it impossible for them to live in this place.”

Again and again, Henry examines his past, and particularly his relationship with his difficult father, for clues as to his current alienation. in his own way, Henry is as intimidated by his father as his mother was (as a young boy, "my self-conception was that i was frail"). He is estranged from the taciturn industriousness of the new first-generation immigrant father and cannot share that defining experience - in this sense, Native Speaker is a descendant of exile literature; Henry is as exiled from the culture of his father as much as from society.

Finally, external confrontations force Henry to react against his accumulated self-censure and opaqueness. Fittingly, these occur only when he is engaged in espionage, when he wears yet another mask only to see it slip. He finds himself going off-script and opening up to a Filipino psychiatrist, and then infiltrates the staff of a popular Korean city councilman, John Kwang, who becomes a surrogate father-figure. Native Speaker concludes with the end of this journey from estrangement to (self) acceptance in sight, and the present tense of the book’s ending captures Henry’s emergence into light, and the thawing of what Graham Greene described as the splinter of ice in an author’s heart. —Dafydd Phillips

Publisher's Summary

Narrator Henry Park, son of a Korean-American grocer, is an undercover operative for a vaguely sinister private intelligence agency. When he is assigned to spy on a rising Korean-American politician, Park finds his family, culture, and identity endangered by the secrets he uncovers.

Swirled into the turbulent background of New York City politics and growing ethnic tensions, Park must come to terms with his American wife, Lelia, and the recent death of his young son while fighting an emotional attachment to the people he is investigating. A compelling intrigue builds while insights into current political events, love, culture, and family abound.

©1996 Chang-rae Lee; (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Espionage acts as a metaphor for the uneasy relationship of Amerasians to American society in this eloquent, thought-provoking tale of a young Korean-American's struggle to conjoin the fragments of his personality in culturally diverse New York City.....Writing in a precise yet freewheeling prose that takes us deep into Henry's head, first-novelist Lee packs this story, whose intrigue is well measured and compelling, with insights into both current political events and timeless questions of love, culture, family bonds and identity." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (12 )
5 star
 (1)
4 star
 (5)
3 star
 (5)
2 star
 (0)
1 star
 (1)
Overall
5.0 (1 )
5 star
 (1)
4 star
 (0)
3 star
 (0)
2 star
 (0)
1 star
 (0)
Story
5.0 (1 )
5 star
 (1)
4 star
 (0)
3 star
 (0)
2 star
 (0)
1 star
 (0)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Colleen Calvert 12-11-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    44
    37
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    "Native Speaker - Wonderful book, middling narrator"

    This book is very powerful - the kind that might be better read than listened to. The narrator is okay, but not spectacular. I would now like to get a hard copy of the book, which I would highly recommend reading.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cheshire Everett, WA, United States 03-06-13
    Cheshire Everett, WA, United States 03-06-13 Member Since 2002

    I never regret reading, whatever my rating. Love you all, books!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    27
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic listen on every level."

    The reader, David Colacci, has a melodious voice, soothing on the ear, with gentle velvet-lined emotion. I thought he caught the exact tone of the novel. The novel itself carries its drama forward with nuanced pacing of words, easily leading the listener into the story until it is difficult to stop. A very interesting novel and a worthy award winner.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deb Columbus, Ohio, United States 04-25-10
    Deb Columbus, Ohio, United States 04-25-10 Member Since 2003

    Personal trainer in Columbus, Ohio since 1988. Addicted 2 audible. I've been a manner since 2001

    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    77
    22
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    "Boring"

    started it a few times. Can't get through it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-3 of 3 results

    There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

CANCEL

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.