Our story begins with recently-immigrated Haesu, who is being "taught" how to clean a toilet by Mrs. Randolph; Haesu "did not know the English equivalent for 'low woman' but she did know how to say, 'I quit' and later said it to Mrs. Randolph". Born a yangban, or an aristocrat, Haesu is determined never to work for anyone else. Her husband, Chun, starts a successful produce business and eventually buys them a house, but Haesu always dreams of going home. Her hatred of anything Japanese is unwavering, especially after she visits Korea and sees that a permanent return is impossible as long as the Japanese are present. Her children grow up in the midst of their mother's fierce pride; when Chun loses their savings and eventually leaves them, Haesu refuses charity and spends endless hours doing piecework embroidery at their table because a yangban would never work outside the home. As one generation gives over to the next, the focus of Clay Walls shifts to Haesu's daughter, Faye, who must find her place between her mother's world and the United States outside her front door .....
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