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Simon & Schuster

Docile: Memoirs of a Not-So-Perfect Asian Girl by Hyeseung Song (Hardcover) (PREORDER)

Docile: Memoirs of a Not-So-Perfect Asian Girl by Hyeseung Song (Hardcover) (PREORDER)

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Nonfiction - Biographies & Autobiographies - Memoirs - Asian Americans - Family & Relationships - Dysfunctional Families 


For readers of Crying in H Mart and Minor Feelings as well as lovers of the film Minari comes a searing coming-of-age memoir about the daughter of ambitious Asian American immigrants and her search for self-worth.

A daughter of Korean immigrants, Hyeseung Song spends her earliest years in the cane fields of Texas where her loyalties are divided between a restless father in search of Big Money, and a beautiful yet domineering mother whose resentments about her own life compromises her relationship with her daughter. With her parents at constant odds, Song learns more words in Korean for hatred than for love. When the family’s fake Gucci business lands them in bankruptcy, Song moves to a new elementary school. On her first day, a girl asks the teacher: “Can she speak English?”

Neither rich nor white, Song does what is necessary to be visible: she internalizes the model minority myth as well as her beloved mother’s dreams to see her on a secure path. Song meets these expectations by attending the best Ivy League universities in the country. But when she wavers, in search of an artistic life on her own terms, her mother warns, “Happiness is what unexceptional people tell themselves when they don’t have the talent and drive to go after real success.” Years of self-erasure take a toll and Song experiences recurring episodes of depression and mania. A thought repeats: I want to die. I want to die. Song enters a psychiatric hospital where she meets patients with similar struggles. So begins her sweeping journey to heal herself by losing everything.

Unflinching and lyrical, Docile is one woman’s story of subverting the model minority myth, contending with mental illness, and finding her self-worth by looking within.


Hyeseung Song is a first-generation Korean American writer and painter. She lives in Brooklyn and upstate New York. Visit her website at

" Docile is the rarest of things: a scorchingly honest, beautiful, hugely evocative memoir that's also a proper pageturner: I read it breathlessly in a single sitting, transported and deeply moved. It's at one and the same time the story of a life and a meditation on identity, family, trauma, illness, and the nature of love, art, and success. It's wonderful." -- Helen MacDonald, New York Times bestselling author of H is for Hawk

"A revelation, a celebration of resilience, and a testament to the power of art to heal and transform. Docile has left an indelible mark on me." -- Chloé Cooper Jones, two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and author of Easy Beauty

"A savagely beautiful memoir. Skillfully crafted and achingly heartfelt, Docile creates worlds through richly-observed details, told with a powerful narrative drive. Eloquent, often funny, and always unflinchingly honest, Song has created a Portrait of the Artist as a Young AAPI Woman which will be read and cherished for generations to come." -- David Henry Hwang, author of M. Butterfly

"A work of extraordinary tenderness and depth, Docile chronicles an immigrant family's dreams, losses, and love through Hyeseung Song's clear-eyed and poetic storytelling. Ultimately a book about the call of art, the bane of mental illness, and inheritances both welcome and not, Docile offers a gorgeous glimpse of one seeker's earnest journey toward selfhood." -- Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch

"This book sliced my heart. A portal into a relentless artist's path, and how damaging the burden of love and sacrifice can be. An immigrant story and an artist's story; a mental illness story and a divorce story; Song writes of gasping for air while drowning, and then finally making it to shore." -- Frances Cha, author of If I Had Your Face

"This beautiful, brutal coming-of-age tale enthralled me from start to finish. Few writers have captured the terror and wonder of childhood with Song's precision and intellect. I loved this book and will never, ever stop thinking about it." -- Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

"Song takes us on an intimate journey through the rich inner life of a brilliant young woman whose gifts are tethered to her self-worth, and in so doing, she invites us to ask difficult questions: What is the debt we owe to others for our own lives? What is the cost of carrying that debt? And how do we ultimately break free? Docile is a first-hand account of struggling with mental illness and a profound and poetic meditation on the value of living." -- Grace M. Cho, author of Tastes Like War

"Filled with unwavering grace, Docile is a story of loneliness and searching that brims with radiant empathy. Song leaves readers with a bold assertion: that we must become who we are meant to be, no matter the cost." -- Kat Chow, author of Seeing Ghosts

" Docile left me open mouthed and gaping in wonder--Hyeseung Song fearlessly plumbs so many varied topics from Asian mothers to mental health to relationships to creativity. Her words become pointillist brushstrokes that layer complexity and nuance to create an indelible tapestry filled with people I will never forget--most of all, herself." -- Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of The Evening Hero

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