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Meet Frances Park

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The Summer My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon


The Summer My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon is an emotionally charged, cautionary tale about alienation and the spiritual deformity that ensues when it feels like the whole world hates you. In the summer of ’76, with no other Koreans in Glover, Virginia, fourteen-year-old Marcy Moon idolizes her irreverent big sister Cleo, who has her pick of lovers and uses her sexuality to prevail against racism. In Marcy’s eyes, every guy would cut off his ponytail, burn his guitar and shoot old ladies if you told him to. Her dream, a dangerous one, is to be like Cleo. Central to the story is the girls’ inability to bond with their mom, who left her heart behind in North Korea and finds it difficult to love her daughters the way a mother should. Most heartbreaking is the sisters’ love for their dad, a complicated and worldly man who wants to be the best father and provider, but, in the end, cannot escape his demons.




        The Summer My Sister Was                      Cleopatra Moon Trailer

To learn more about my favorite collection of short stories & essays, visit my Shepherd Page.

Listen to Frances talk about "Finding West Virginia" on West Virginia Talk.

                     Excerpt from The Summer My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon


Cleo was back, her yellow convertible Mustang lined up with the buses. I remember running down the school steps so fast I beat the bell. When she saw me, she went wild with her signature honk — beep, beep, beeeep! — calling up something I can’t imagine today. My big sister at the wheel. My heart racing.

“Cleo, you’re home!”

She hugged me like a beloved rag doll and wouldn’t let go for a long time. I needed that hug; it almost got me crying. What stopped me was the shocking sight of her bosom spilling out of a red and white striped tube top. In those days I lived in Cleo’s hand-me-downs — her faded jeans and old T-shirts — but the thought of me in that tube top next year was going too far. I would never have deep cleavage or wear Wet ‘n’ Wild Hot Pink Lip Gloss so deservedly. And my hair was black straw, no matter how I cut it. It would never move like the ocean when I walked. Our mother often pointed out that Cleo inherited her beauty from our grandmother, but Cleo brushed this off like dirt. I don’t think she wanted to be linked in any way, shape, or form to some Korean peasant squatting in the fields. Could I blame her?


“In her coming-of-age novel about two sisters, every page of which bears the imprint of her emotional and spiritual investment, Frances Park shows what a woman writer can achieve with such rich material at hand.”      

--The Strait Times, Singapore

“… bold, powerful comedy… The parents in particular are sketched with an unflinching eye for pathos that can be fairly heartbreaking… Frances Park’s writing on adolescence is readable, unsentimental and… entrancing.”      

--The London Times

“This is a delicate, humane, funny novel… that stands within the best tradition of imaginative writing.”        --The Taipei Times

Park’s poignant novel… comes to us as a cautionary tale about the perils of the American dream.        —----The Korea Times

“The story captured a vivid image of sisterhood in all its complex glory and gore. I couldn’t put the book down.”      

--The Korean Quarterly

“… written with gusto… and will likely find a place in summer beach bags.               

--Washington Post Book World

My Story

I grew up in an era when the U.S. Census Bureau need only come to my family's house to get a total head count of Koreans in my ‘burb. That reality is often reflected in fourteen books - novels, nonfiction books, award-winning children's books - published in seven languages.

My current novel THE SUMMER MY SISTER IS CLEOPATRA MOON (Heliotrope NYC/Sept 2023) is a revised and streamlined version of a novel that was published in 2000, long before the era of K-Pop and K-Dramas. That said, playing in my mind like vintage footage, I was always hoping that somehow, someday, I could bring the Korean Moon family back to life, sisters Marcy and Cleo cruising around in that yellow Mustang on their way to Taco Town in the summer of '76. Lucky me, the stars fell into place.


Coming soon is my novel BLUE RICE (Vine Leaves Press/June 2024), a timely tale of a young woman from northern Korea who takes what fate deals her following the Korean War, including her acclimation to 1960s America as she senses her journalist husband drifting away from her soon after they hit U.S. soil.


My sister Ginger and I love to write children’s books together, and we’ve earned many dozens of awards. Our latest collaboration is GRANDPA’S SCROLL (Albert Whitman/2023), which gently handles the topic of death with writing via pen pal letters or a poetic scroll. Next is SUKA’S FARM (Albert Whitman/2024), a testament to a young Korean’s boy’s spirit to overcome poverty.


My previous full-length work includes my memoir THAT LONELY SPELL: STORIES OF FAMILY, FRIENDS & LOVE (Heliotrope NYC/2022), composed of twenty-six personal essays. All have appeared in magazines such as O, The Oprah Magazine, The Chicago Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, among others. One story, particularly close to my heart, earned a spot on THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2017 Notable List.


I've been interviewed on 'Good Morning America', CNN, the Diane Rehm Show, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and NPR. (Secret: I'm always more nervous than I look!)

When I'm not in writing mode, I'm at Chocolate Chocolate, a sweet boutique in Washington, DC breaking bonbons with customers. Books + Chocolate = A Dream Life!

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