> Skip to content
  • Published: 7 January 2025
  • ISBN: 9780143138242
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $39.99

Clay Walls



A landmark modern classic about the Korean American immigrant experience and the dawn of Los Angeles’s Koreatown

A Penguin Classic

A landmark modern classic about the Korean American immigrant experience and the dawn of Los Angeles’s Koreatown

A Penguin Classic

Kim Ronyoung (Gloria Hahn, 1926–1987) tells the story of Haesu and Chun, immigrants who fled Japanese-occupied Korea for Los Angeles in the decade prior to World War II, and their American-born children. First published in 1986, Clay Walls offers a portrait of what being Korean in California meant in the first half of the twentieth century and how these immigrants’ nationalist spirit helped them withstand racism and poverty. Kim explores the tensions within a family of immigrants and new Americans and brings to the forefront the themes of Korean immigration, U.S. racism, generational trauma, and the early decades of Los Angeles’s Koreatown from a Korean American woman’s point of view. Through three sections representing the perspectives of mother, father, and daughter, what resonates the most is the voice of a woman and her self-determination, through national identity, marriage, and motherhood.

  • Published: 7 January 2025
  • ISBN: 9780143138242
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $39.99

Praise for Clay Walls


Praise for Clay Walls:

“I read Clay Walls by Ronyoung Kim, the pen name of Gloria Hahn, when I was a college student. (…) Clay Walls is a story about immigration and colonial trauma, and it is also a story about marriage, class, and patriarchy. At the time, I did not think I could be a writer, so I did not read it as a lofty literary example; rather, I read it and loved it because it was a beautifully written work of American literature that was both absorbing and deeply felt.”
—Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko and Free Food for Milliionaires

“By interweaving the three themes of the Korean immigrant experience—Korean culture, American racism, and Korean nationalism—Kim has created an important novel.”
—Eun Sik Yang, The Los Angeles Times

"Political-historical moments are the pearls of the novel …One is grateful for being invited into that closeted but lively world."
The New York Times

“Kim Ronyoung's writing is true to her unblinking vision of reality. Her portrayal of Chun reminds me of D.H. Lawrence's portrayal of the miner-father in Sons and Lovers. The passage of this family from 1920 to 1945 is a long and extremely arduous journey, but it is both necessary and triumphant.”
San Francisco Chronicle