The Millions

What’s in an Author Name?

If I’m gonna tell a real story, I’m gonna start with my name.
Kendrick Lamar 

1.
Not unlike George Herbert Walker Bush, my full legal name, as it reads on my birth certificate, has four pieces, not the usual three.

Marie Myung-Ok Grace Lee.

People assume Myung-Ok is my middle name. But it’s just my name, one that was benched, like a junior varsity player, for my entire childhood, and then revived–but not for the reasons one might think–when I needed an “author name” for my novel.

When my parents came to the U.S. from Korea in 1953, one of the first things they did was choose “American” names. Grace for my mother; my father loved William, partly for its Will-I-Am, Seussian pun. He never understood why people subsequently shortened it to “Bill,” which kind of ruined everything.

Being a Korean War refugee/Korean immigrant in the 1950s was a rare thing, given the racist U.S. immigration laws that barred Asians. Pivotal to their new American life was a, his wife was , which is how my brother came to be Leonard and then I, following, am Marie.

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