Maija Rhee Devine

Archive for May, 2013

Schedule of Author visits

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 by Maija Rhee Devine

Schedule of Author visits, readings/Q&A, book signings—Maija Rhee Devines novel, The Voices of Heaven (Seoul Selection/USA, Irvine, CA, 2013) (,,, and Ingram Whole Sale Club)

4/6/ and 4/7/2013, Irvine, CA, book signing, Seoul Selection/USA. (Two feature articles, Orange County Register and announcements by Korea Herald, 한국일보, JungangIlbo).

4/6, publication dinner organized by Sogang University alums of LA area

4/9, book signing, The Hub, Seattle, WA

4/10, an author visit with Mary Ann Anderson’s book club, Seattle, WA

4/17, Arrowhead Middle School, Kansas City, Kansas.  Reading/Talk to an audience of 300 middle school students and 35 teachers.  I signed books for the teachers.

4/18, Ft. Collins High School.  The posting about my three readings/presentations to 10th graders with pictures appeared at (4/25/2013).

4/20, author visit to Beitel Elementary School, Laramie, Wyoming.

4/30, Reading, KU, 4pm, Pine Room, Kansas Union, Lawrence, KS.

5/3, Author visit at Underwood Elementary School, Lee’s Summit, MO.

5/10-6/6/2013:  Author visits in Seoul:

5/20, Reading/Talk, middle school assembly, Seoul International School, Seoul, Korea.

5/21, Reading/Talk, high school assembly, Seoul International School, Seoul, Korea

5/22 (?) (Date to be announced), Publication announcement, press conference, reading, Seoul Selection Publishing, Seoul, Korea.

5/23, Reading/Talk/Book signing, Employees of G.E., Seoul, Korea

5/27, Dangjin

6/22, Give a speech about my personal experience of the Korean War and how my novel relates to the war and the Armistice Agreement, the Korean War Museum, Springfield, IL. Author visit/book signing at a library and/or book clubs in Springfield, IL, TBA.

6/26-28, Book signing, Washington, D.C., organized by Sogang alums and the Korean Association.

7/24, Book giveaway/signing, The Voices of Heaven, a novel about the Korean War, 5:30-7:30 pm, The HUB, 220 2nd Ave. S., Seattle, WA  98104. Open to the public.

7/29, Presentation at The Horizon House, 900 University Street, Seattle, WA.  Residents and invitees only.

9/17, Discussion of The Voices of Heaven, The Inclement Book Club, Lee’s Summit, MO

10/27, Reading/presentation Haechi in Myongdong, 10 Magazine Book Club in Central Seoul. Contact: Barry Welsh, host/organizer,, 010-5138-8859,

5/20/2014, Reading, 7 pm, Johnson Country Community Resources Library, Kansas City, KS, contact: Jeanie Wilson,

WfP Adviser Visits Fort Collins High School

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 by Maija Rhee Devine

Author, poet, and Writing for Peace Adviser, Maija Rhee Devine, visited Fort Collins High School last week to read from her debut novel, Voices of Heaven. The novel was first written as a memoir about her experiences as a young girl during the Korean War. As the North Korean and Chinese armies invaded, Devine’s family fled along with thousands of others through snow and freezing temperatures, carrying their possessions in bags on their heads. Some men, she said, balanced mattresses on their heads in hopes that the extra padding would protect them from flying bullets. Students in Mitch Schneider’s language arts classes listened with rapt attention as Devine described how her mother would cover her eyes when they came upon bombing victims, or as people beside them were struck by sniper bullets. They boarded a boxcar without windows or seats where desperate men clung to the outside of the cars, until they froze and fell to their deaths.

Devine explained the Confucian culture that made boys necessary to families, not only for the security of elderly parents, but to perform the ceremonial feasts that ensured the well-being of three generations of ancestors in the afterlife. A man and wife who were unable to produce a male heir would commonly secure a mistress, either maintaining a second household, or bringing her into the home. This was the case in her family, when fifteen harmonious years of marriage failed to produce a male heir. Her novel opens with her family preparing for the arrival of the new mistress amid rumors of war.

Devine said the process to transform her memoir into a novel had taken ten years, but ultimately had freed her to explore voices of other characters within the story. She read about the arrival of the new mistress from her own perspective as a little girl, as well as her mother’s, father’s, and the mistress herself. Devine challenged Schneider’s students to think back to an emotional event in their own lives and write about it in the voice of another character.


Fort Collins High School sophomore, Margarita Gutierrez, and visiting author, Maija Rhee Devine.

Fort Collins High School sophomore, Margarita Gutierrez, and visiting author, Maija Rhee Devine.

Kellan McTague, a junior at Fort Collins High School, shared that his grandfather had been a veteran of the Korean War. “Your grandfather saved my life,” said Devine.

Kellan McTague, a junior at Fort Collins High School, shared that his grandfather had been a veteran of the Korean War. “Your grandfather saved my life,” said Devine.

Fort Collins High School student, Erik Garcia Arellano, and visiting author, Maija Rhee Devine.

Fort Collins High School student, Erik Garcia Arellano, and visiting author, Maija Rhee Devine.

Maija Rhee Devine, a Korean-born writer whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Boulevard, North American Review, and The Kenyon Review, and in various anthologies, holds a B.A. in English from Sogang University in Seoul, and an M.A. in English from St. Louis University. Writing honors include an NEA grant and nominations to Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Awards. Maija Rhee Devine is a member of the Writing for Peace Advisory Panel.

Additional Korean News

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 by Maija Rhee Devine


More Korean News

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 by Maija Rhee Devine


Korean News

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 by Maija Rhee Devine


Korean author Maija Rhee Devine

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 by Maija Rhee Devine



In “The Voices of Heaven”, Maija (pronounced May-jah) Rhee Devine tells the story of a young Korean couple in the early 1940s with a love for each other “as sweet as sticky rice,” according to the author’s description. Their relationship and country are tested, though, as the pressure to give birth to a male heir mounts and a divided Korea goes to war. Devine also tackles gender roles in a traditional Confucianism system that values men above women. Much of the fictional novel is inspired by her own life.

Devine will be signing her novel today and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at her publisher’s office at 4199 Campus Drive, Suite 550 in Irvine.

Maija Rhee Devine, author of “The Voices of Heaven”


The book is being published by Seoul Selection Publishing and is available on

Q. A lot of noise has been coming out of North Korea lately – what do you think of the latest threats (i.e., the end to the armistice with South Korea and talk of reviving a nuclear program)?

A. Actually, people in South Korea, they are not as nervous about news coming out of North Korea … every time North Korea makes some kind of threat. South Koreans just say “OK, whatever” and they just go on with their lives. Psychologically, emotionally, they have become immune. They have become toughened. And they have lived through so many threats from North Korea for 60 years that they just don’t think anything will really happen. But, of course, every time North Korea makes pronouncements, like they are going to make the sea of fire of South Korea and part of the United States, we all jump and worry and lose sleep. … Our youngest son lives in Korea, he lives in Seoul. He’s married, he married a Korean girl. They are both teachers. He teaches at Seoul International School. Because he and our daughter-in-law live there, I naturally become very anxious whenever threats from North Korea become news. And they also just calm me down and say, “Hey, nothing’s going to happen.”

Q. What was it like tackling your first novel?

A. Actually, I used a lot of autobiographical material. The first book was a memoir. I had an agent who read the memoir manuscript and she recommended that I turn it into a novel. … So I wrote it all over, in a novel form, which took a little over 10 years to do that. I needed to learn how to do it. I didn’t know the craft. It took awhile. In the meantime, I did publish short stories and poems. … I would have given it up long ago, if it wasn’t for believing that these common people I write about in my novel, if I didn’t write about them, they would be lost forever to the world. Nobody would know them. They would just live their lives struggling, loving, doing whatever was necessary under the Confucius value system, and they die and they’re gone and I wanted to honor them.

Q. How much of the autobiographical material from your earlier memoir remains in your novel?

A. My parents had no male child, and at that time in Korea, any family that didn’t have a male child needed to do something about that. Not having a male child was not acceptable because the male child not only carried down the family name but the male child offered ancestor worship ceremonies several times throughout the year. … If a family did not have a male descendent offering these, the spirits of the dead ancestors could not go into heaven. They became wandering ghosts. … So, the well being, not only in this life of the family but the well being in the next life depended on having a male child. So my parents, since they had just me but they were very much in love with each other, my father did not want to get a second wife. But after waiting 15 years, he had to. And so they had a mistress come in and live in the same house and produce a son. …And so the novel’s opening scene is the day this woman is coming and the wife, who is my mother, was preparing food to throw for the big wedding party and practicing what she needed to say to the woman. And what she needed to say was, “?Welcome to my husband’s bed.”

Q. The daughter character, then, I’m presuming is based on you?

A. The daughter does not know that she was adopted right at the beginning of the book. The adults talk about her being an adopted child but she does not know. She blames herself that her parents are going through this tragedy, brokenhearted over the mistress coming, because of this daughter. If she had been a boy, this would not have happened. Only in the epilogue of the novel, when she is a grown woman, she learns that she’s adopted.

Q. What ultimately do you hope readers will take away from your book?

A. I would like them to know this book as a story of common Korean people going through their struggles with not only their personal lives but with national disaster and know that what they try to do was to live up to Confucian values, which means honoring other people, women honoring men. That’s the main theme of this novel. Within the Confucian value system, women were below men. Although that changed a lot the last three or four decades, the male-centric value still continues. … They made this huge economic leap from third world. … But where are the women? They are still lagging behind.

Contact the writer: Maija Rhee Devine graduated from Sogang University in Seoul and earned a master’s degree from St. Louis University in Missouri. She has taught English as a second language at colleges and universities, as well as Asian Civilization courses at the University of Kansas. Her husband Michael J. Devine is the director of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.


Author discusses Korea tensions at book signing

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 by Maija Rhee Devine


IRVINE – A group of Korean Americans and Koreans gathered Sunday afternoon to discuss a new book about the Korean War and to exchange views on the escalating tensions between North Korea, South Korea and the U.S. Maija Rhee Devine, author of “The Voices of Heaven,” met with Irvine residents in the fifth-floor offices of Seoul Selection Publishing for a book signing and discussion. Her novel tells the story of a Korean couple who adopt a girl and use the services of a mistress to bear a male child. They are all subsequently torn apart by war.

The Korean War
Duration: June 25, 1950-July 27, 1953; ended by armistice
Who fought: North Korea, supported by China and the Soviet Union; South Korea, supported by the United Nations, with heavy involvement of the U.S.
Military casualties (includes dead, wounded, missing in action and POW): 776,360 for U.N. and South Korea; between 1.18 million and 1.54 million for North Korea and China
Civilians killed or wounded: About 2.5 million
Also known as: The Forgotten War

“This is a story about the common people of Korea, and the record of their having lived through the Korean War and its aftermath,” said Devine, a Korean-born writer and teacher who lives in Kansas City, Mo. “They go through the trials and heartaches of the Korean War, and that Korean War situation still holds relevance to today’s situation because of recent developments.” Those developments include the revoking last month of a 60-year-old armistice by North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, and an increase of bellicose threats by Kim. Those threats have been matched by the U.S. with military exercises and warnings of dire consequences if war breaks out.

“I have a lot of concern about Korea,” said Jan Sunoo, a Korean American international consultant and instructor at the Rotary Peace Center who attended Sunday’s talk. “I’m very concerned, because all the newspaper headlines and all this talk about increasing volatility – all they focus on is what Kim Jong Un says. I don’t think there’s any analysis of what’s the U.S. role, and our foreign policy role, in this escalation.” Amy Choo, a Korean citizen who attended university in Utah and works at the Korea Foundation in Los Angeles, said she gets worried when she watches CNN here. However, when she calls her parents in South Korea, they tell her nothing is going to happen. “My friends ask me, ‘If war breaks out, are we going to go back, or are we going to stay here?'” said Choo, who lives with her sister Hazel, a student at Irvine Valley College. “It’s a really hard question for us. I really hope that this is the same thing that, over and over, North Korea has done.”

Choo is referring to a pattern of threatening rhetoric by North Korea, followed by negotiations with South Korea and the U.S. and some concessions of aid. North Korea, officially a socialist republic, is one of the most isolated countries in the world, yet is also one of the most heavily militarized. A known nuclear weapons state, North Korea also suffers from widespread famine, according to many reports. Devine said she hopes readers of her book will understand Korean culture better, in “all its sensuality as well as its values.” “I want them to come away with the feeling that the characters, no matter how difficult their situations were, they try to live honorably, according to the values given to them by heaven,” she said.

Devine is married to Michael J. Devine, director of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Mo. Her novel is available on and through Ingram Publisher Services.

Contact the writer: 714-796-6026 or

Published: April 7, 2013 Updated: April 8, 2013 4:28 p.m.


Korean American author Maija Rhee Devine talks with Irvine residents about Korean War and current tensions.

Korean American author Maija Rhee Devine talks with Irvine residents about Korean War and current tensions.

Author Maija Rhee Devine, right, speaks about her book "The Voices of Heaven" as Brenda Paik Sunno listens during a book reading and signing at Seoul Selection Publishing in Irvine on Sunday. "The Voices of Heaven" is a love story set during the Korean War.

Author Maija Rhee Devine, right, speaks about her book “The Voices of Heaven” as Brenda Paik Sunno listens during a book reading and signing at Seoul Selection Publishing in Irvine on Sunday. “The Voices of Heaven” is a love story set during the Korean War.




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