My Big Sis


One day my oldest sister and I were discussing our middle sister, Annabelle.

“Annabelle never does things the normal way,” she said.

“When we moved from Texas to Korea and had to go to school and didn’t speak a word of Korean, I threw temper tantrums every day, because I was so miserable and mad at Mom and Dad for dragging us there. Annabelle was immediately voted class president.”

Scan 1

Annabelle is on the right, wearing her special class president’s badge.

“Instead of just going to any old college, she went to MIT, and made straight As, and then while she was at it, she threw in a masters degree to boot!”

“Instead of just becoming an engineer, she designed a revolutionary, industry-changing water filtration method.”

“Instead of just having one baby, she had THREE at a time!”

C'mon boyz

On that note, my very traditional Korean dad once told me, “Well, Adrienne, I used to think you were the lucky one, because you have two boys…but now Annabelle has you beat.” Not only does my sister have a beautiful, brilliant, and accomplished daughter, she has triplet boys. For Koreans, that’s like winning the Mega Millions lottery three times.


Somehow during those sleepless years when she was designing water plants and raising her family, my amazing big sis also wrote a novel.

As you would expect, it’s not just any ordinary book. Tiger Pelt received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and has been named as one of the Best Books of 2015. Alexander Theroux writes:

A passionate, absorbing novel, Annabelle Kim’s Tiger Pelt with its South Korean backdrop is a seismic tremor of a book. Kim who is a writer with bold insights fixes on two interwoven lives with humane irony, antic imagination, and an unsettling perceptiveness that includes much fascinating lore about that country and her wounded but ultimately triumphant fictional creations. It is a stark, often unsparing book.

One seasoned editor has called it “Pulitzer-worthy.” I’ve read the book from cover to cover at least three times now. Every single time it makes me laugh and weep. The story knocks the wind out of you; the book’s moments of poetry leave you breathless. I promise you that Tiger Pelt is not just any old book. My big sis wrote it after all!

Tiger Pelt is coming out this Monday and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Chic Sister Chronicles

It is an accepted fact that my sister is the fashionable one in our family.

This winter whenever I would see my father, he would invariably be nattily dressed in a sweater that I knew he would never have picked out for himself. My father, who had never before in his life expressed a shred of interest in clothes or fashion, would pat his torso in satisfaction and say to me, “See this sweater? Your sister bought it for me. It’s a really nice one.”

My mother, who favors shapeless black turtlenecks and sweatpants for herself, looks at my get-ups with resigned pity and says, “You always wear weird things. That’s your taste…Your sister always looks beautiful in whatever she wears.”

When I was living in New York, I would buy clothes every now and then at the ubiquitous street fairs. My mother would look askance at a skirt I’d be wearing and say, “Quit buying one dollar clothes! They look terrible!”

“Hey!” I’d protest, “This actually cost me five dollars!”

A couple of weekends ago when my sister and I were debating about the clothes I should wear to our cousin’s wedding, (mine or hers), I told her, “People at work have told me they think I dress fashionably.”

“That’s really sad,” she replied with perfect sincerity.

Recently I needed to buy a pair of shoes to wear with a certain outfit. I looked through thousands of pairs of pumps on that rabbit hole of a website called Zappos until my eyes started to glaze over. I was getting nowhere until I tried to pretend I was my stylish sister as I looked through the gazillions of shoes. I finally settled upon two pairs I thought she might approve of and sent her the links. I picked them, in fact, because to me they were reminiscent of the shoes she had worn to the wedding. I immediately got this three word message in return:

“Old lady shoes.”

“Maybe because I used ‘wide’ in the filter?!” I wrote back, bewildered.

“Get over yourself and your ‘wide’ feet!” she snapped back at me by text message, “You are not wide, you are just whining. Beauty hurts.” And then she proceeded to text me pictures of sleek $300 to $400 dollar shoes.

“But do they come in pot roast size?” I mused to myself…The answer, of course, was “no.”

My sister eventually picked out a pair of wide pumps for me that I could actually afford and today, when I got home from work, there they were waiting for me on my doorstep:

They looked so sleek, I had to double check to make sure they were really wide. I put them on and marveled at the way they magically made my fat feet look narrower.

Sometimes when my family gets together, my sister entertains us all by imitating the way I walk in high heels. Picture her walking around like a cowboy with rickets drunkenly swaying to the loud and hearty guffaws of my family. I decided to make sure the shoes really fit by walking around in them as I cooked dinner. I made a concerted effort to not teeter swaybacked and bowlegged as I walked back and forth between the fridge and the stove. I thought I looked pretty damn good. I tried to channel my sister as I sauntered around in my beautiful new suede high heels.

And then I dropped a huge blob of mayonnaise on them.




This Thanksgiving, it was all about this little guy:  my 2 year old nephew we call “Dandelion,” because of the chick fuzz on his head. We don’t get to see him very often as he lives far away, so we go into full-on frenzied paparazzi mode when he visits. All weekend long we openly, shamelessly vied for a word, a glance, or a wave of the hand with every kind of blandishment and bribe we could throw his way. Despite our exertions, he would only bestow his favor upon my daughter and the men in the family. It didn’t stop the rest of us from trying, though…

Here’s Dandelion with his dad, my little brother:

And here he is with his mother:

See the golden glow around her? She is truly as lovely inside as she is on the outside. Sometimes we jokingly ask my brother, “How did YOU, the Prince of Darkness, manage to convince the Sugar Plum Fairy to marry you?” (This may possibly be the reason why he refers to us, his loving sisters, as “the Harpies”). His wife comes from a family of life coaches and counselors who live to communicate and help people find fulfillment and reach their fullest potential. She herself is a life coach, as well as an amazing singer-songwriter. When my taciturn and somewhat misanthropic brother will break his silence to idly muse about, say, his desire to open a zoo, where humans, rather than animals are displayed behind bars, a pained expression will pass over his wife’s face. She’ll say, “Honey, I really think we need to process that.” Whereupon, he will amiably punch her delicate arm with his meaty fist and say, “OK, Dude.”

It was a typical Kim family holiday: sit, chat, eat, repeat. Sit, chat, eat, repeat. Sit, chat, eat, repeat…

My poor son had to work on his term paper outline all weekend long…

Every once in a while he would take a break to sprint around the block:

I found a reminder of our trip to San Francisco in my parents’ fridge. We had eaten smoked salmon for breakfast every morning in the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel. My mother proclaimed that she felt like she was eating a king’s feast, and so we started to call her the “Countess” for the rest of the time we were there. This weekend when I opened the fridge, I saw that my sister had bought some smoked salmon for her and had attached this note:

Today is my sister’s birthday. She is the sun around which our family revolves. She is extravagant in her love, lavish in her generosity. She is wickedly funny and witty. I think she may be the only person in the world, who reads so voraciously that she takes books into the shower. She is the world’s best storyteller. Honest to God, listening to her retell a movie plot is way better than actually seeing the movie. She can talk about the price of crude oil and somehow make it so enthralling that you hang on her every word. Beauty follows in her wake. I love you, Sissy. Happy Birthday, and may your every wish come true! xoxoxo

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for so many things, but most of all: for my family.

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