Reviews & advance praise for If You Live in a Small House

If You Live in a Small House achieves escape velocity from the sentimentality that often characterizes period novels of Hawaii, largely through an immanent sense of wonder and mystery. The book’s father figure, a veteran of WWII in Europe, didn’t find his way home so easily, and his family longs to be allowed into his secret world of adventure in warfare, and in women. This tension extends to the rest of the multi-generational family, and the novel explores our unceasing explorations, our journeys in search of those we hold most dear.

                            –Ragnar Carlson, Honolulu Weekly

Sandra Park's poetic new novella, If You Live in a Small House, reveals multiple hidden worlds: the small-town ways of Kailua (and Hawai'i) in the early 1950s, before statehood and during the Korean War; the perspective of Korean Americans in Hawai'i, several generations after their arrival; and the rich interior life of multigenerational family living together but growing apart.

                          —Jeanne Cooper, SF Gate/SF Chronicle

Park's modernist story If You Live in a Small House is an important

and beautiful chronicle of American lives too little known to us. Park's stunning novella is capacious as is the story's tender heart.

                          —Min Jin Lee, author of Free Food for Millionaires

The authenticity of Park's characters, their food, their clothes, their

expressions, brings immigrant family life in Hawaii poetically alive.  

Most poignant is the father with his WWII memories and losing his

friends to suicide missions, and his fear that his son will be sent to

Korea to fight enemies who “look like him.”   A compelling reading


                         —Kiana Davenport, author of Shark Dialogues

                             and House of Many Gods 

Completely avoiding the trappings of noisy, multigenerational family

melodrama, this rich psychological narrative instead delves into the

private longings of these characters.  Beautifully told, If You Live in a Small House is the work of a truly gifted writer.

                         —Chris McKinney, author of The Queen of Tears

                             and Bolohead Row         



Sandra Park writes with a generosity and clarity of vision that is both great-hearted and splendidly unsentimental. Nothing escapes her gaze. The writing is fresh and urgent, the language lyrical, the characters alive and kicking on the page. An utterly compelling read from the very first sentence, Small House is an auspicious debut for one of America’s most promising new writers. 

                         —Alice LaPlante, author of Method and Madness: 

                            The Making of a Story and Turn of Mind 

A hauntingly beautiful prose poem that opens the door to a hidden

world and a forgotten moment, If You Live in a Small House is

thoughtful, tender, and not to be missed.

                     —Patricia O'Toole, author of The Five of Hearts and

                         When Trumpets Call

Sandra Park blends action and reverie to evoke the texture and mood of postwar Hawaii in the lives of one Korean immigrant family.  Reading If You Live in a Small House is like standing in Keaniani Lane after dark, peeking through the windows of the “funny kind house.”

                      —Mary Helen Stefaniak, author of The Cailiffs of    

                          Baghdad, Georgia and The Turk and My Mother

Sandra Park’s novel is beautifully told. She is flawless in evoking the atmosphere of the early 1950s, when Kailua was still the country, the Korean Conflict taking sons and fathers who survived the previous war, prosperity a glimmer just visible on the horizon. With subtle humor and tender regard for her characters, Park brings to life an ohana-household with barely room enough for their desires, hopes, and losses. Suspended in the lull before the tsunami of statehood, between forgetfulness and anticipation, Park’s lyrical novel is a small miracle of remembrance. 

                       —Frank Stewart, editor of Manoa Journal and

                           author of By All Means

Mesmerizing. Park’s language is magical—her precise, yet fable-like descriptions draw the reader into a world both new and familiar. When I finally set the book aside, I felt as if I was waking from a dream.

                        —Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Water Ghosts

A captivating portrait of an island family whose troubles and loves are a spicy mix of heartbreak, hilarity, and pure intoxication.

                      —Steve Stern, author of The Wedding Jester 

                          and The Angel of Forgetfulness

This lovely novella evokes a lush poetry of the everyday.  I admire the perfect economy of Sandra Park’s writing, its richness of character, and her decision not to examine the tsunami’s destruction, but rather the eerie beauty of the withdrawn sea that precedes it.  Gloria says of Dante, “Looking is loving:  I could look at you all day long.” The reader will feel a similar affection for the book.

                      —Paul Hoover, author of Sonnet 56 and 

                         Poems in Spanish

In the tradition of Sandra Cisneros’s House on Mango Street and Toshio Mori’s Yokohama, California, Park’s linked vignettes provide us with glimpses of her characters’ everyday lives and even their lifelong fantasies but, like the white-bordered, period photographs that accompany them, remind us that much lies outside our field of vision.  While we come to understand that most of her characters’ dreams will go unfulfilled, and while we come to sympathize with their losses and yearning, Park’s book ultimately asks us to consider what historical and social forces shape the community of 1950s Kailua.  

                        —Floyd Cheung, American Studies,

                           Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts

Park's narrative enfolds the complexity of a multi-ethnic island

community, the histories of Asian immigration and settlement, and the presence of the United States military without subsuming the central exploration of the family's private dreams and experiences. She has achieved a wonderful balance between these larger historical narratives and the interiority of her characters, and her writing offers a stunning example of how political and cultural questions can exist harmoniously with aesthetic and narrative mastery.

                        —Paul Lai, Asian American Literature,

                           University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota

Author Events

Mon, Sept 20, 2010, 1:00 pm PST

Writer’s Sanctuary

online radio interview

hosted by Kim McMillon

sponsored by the Moe Green Poetry Hour

Streamed live and archived at:

Friday, Sept 24, 2010, 7:00 pm CST

Prairie Lights Books

15 South Dubuque Street

Iowa City, IA 52240

  1. (319)337-2681

Streamed live at:

Mon, Sept 27, 2010, 6:30 pm

A Room of One's Own 

307 W. Johnson St.

Madison WI 53703

(608) 257-7888

Tues, Sept 28, 11:00 - 12:15 pm

Univ. of Wisconsin at Whitewater

Dept. of Languages and Lit.

800 West Main Street

Whitewater, WI 53190

Mon, Oct 11, 7:30 pm

The Odd Mondays Series

Noe Valley Ministry

1021 Sanchez St.

San Francisco, CA

With Shawna Yang Ryan

Thurs, Oct 21, 5:00 pm

Hoagy Carmichael Room

Indiana University

Co-sponsored by Asian-Am. Studies / Creative Writing / Asian Cultural Center

Bloomington, IN

Fri, Oct 22, 12:00 pm

Luncheon meeting

IU Asian Culture Center

807 E. 10th St

Indiana University

Hosted by by Asian-Am. Studies / Creative Writing / Asian Cultural Center

Free and open to the public


Thurs, Nov 4, 12:00 pm

Poetry reading

Ohlone College - Library

43600 Mission Blvd

Fremont, CA

Sat, Nov 6, 2:00 pm


600 Kailua Road

Kailua, HI

  1. (808)261-1996

Sun, Nov 7, 2:00 pm

Barnes & Noble

4211 Waialae Avenue

Kahala Mall, Honolulu, HI

(808) 737-3323

To benefit the Manoa Foundation

Sat, Nov 13, Chaminade University

Pacific Asian & Modern Language Assoc. 

3140 Waialae Avenue

Honolulu, HI 96816

(808) 735-4711

With Maxine Chernoff, Chris McKinney,

Susan Schultz

Tues, Nov 16, 7:30 pm

Moe's Books
2476 Telegraph Avenue
Berkeley, CA

  1. (510)849-2087

With Shawna Yang Ryan

Thurs, Nov 18, 7:00 pm


Town & Country Village

855 El Camino Real

Palo Alto, CA 94304

  1. (650)321-0600

Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Lebron-Wiggins-Pran Cultural Center

Hampshire College

893 West Street

Amherst, MA 01002

Co-sponsored by Creative Writing and

five-college Asian/Pacific/American Studies

Thurs, Mar 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm

UConn Co-op Main Campus Bookstore
2075 Hillside Rd Unit 1019
Storrs, CT 06269

Sat, Nov 5, 2011, 1:30-3:00 pm

Pacific Asian & Modern Language Assoc.

Scripps College

Claremont, CA

With Benjamin Bac Sierra, Angie Chau, Shawna

Yang Ryan

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Writers on Writing Series

Humanities Bldg, Rm 133

San Francisco State University

1600 Holloway Ave, SF CA

Book clubs:

Palo Alto, CA

Storrs, CT

Santa Cruz, CA

San Francisco, CA

Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Literasians: Four Writers Converge on the APIA Literary Continuum

SOMArts Building, Main Gallery,

934 Brannan Street, SF

With Aimee Phan, Lysley Tenorio, Andre Yang

API Cultural Center / Kartika Review!/kenjicliu

Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm

AAAS: Afterlives of Empire

The View from ‘Paradise’: Asian-Pacific

Islander Writing

Westin Seattle

1900 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, WA

With Peter Bacho, Eugene Gloria, Lillian Howan, Shawna Yang Ryan


   Reviews, previews, mentions

...a Gina Myers pick 7/1...

...a Carol Chang column 7/21...




...                                                                       ...from Around the Web 7/21...

                                                                        ...a Jessa Crispin pick 7/26...          

September 17, 2010 preview by Misty


October 14, 2010 review by  M. L. Sanico





September  23, 2010 feature by Eric Hawkinson

                                             October 7, 2010 mention


                                           October 11, 2010 feature by Jeanne Cooper


                                            October 11, 2010 mention

                                                           October 11, 2010 SF Chronicle reprint

                  October 12, 2010 sneak peek by Rebecca Adler Warren



                  October 2010 mentions


                  October 2010 “Talk Story” news item

                  November 3, 2010 feature by Robert Kim



                  November 3, 2010 review by Ragnar Carlson


                 October 31, 2010 book brief by Nicole Brooks

                                 November 2010 mentions


“Great Books for the Hawaii Lover on Your List,” November 26, 2010 by Jeanne Cooper

Danish online book seller

On the Hawai’i - Korea connection and Small House, Jan 13, 2011

                                      Mar 8, 2011

                                     Mar/Apr 2011   

By Eric Zhang, NY editor for July 2011 Hyphen blog/archive/2011/07/review-sa ndra-parks-if-you-live-small-h ouse

“The author succeeds in bringing post-World War II, pre-statehood Hawai’i to life. The cultural references were worked seamlessly into the story...” July 2011

“There were points where I had to think that Park had been informed by Virginia Woolf, not simply because there had to be scenes of the ocean considering the narrative is set in Hawaii, but that the psychic interiorities of the characters direct so many of these coastal interludes.” Stephen Hong Sohn, Stanford U.