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Check It Out: Three Rooms by Jo Hamya

This is Michael Maxwell with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Today, I am recommending Three Rooms by Jo Hamya - a quintessentially Millennial story about being overeducated and underemployed. As depressing as that sounds, Hamya renders her story with lyrical language that weaves even the most unpleasant growing pains into a contemplative narrative that I found to be a very relaxing and meaningful read.

The unnamed protagonist of Three Rooms is fresh out of graduate school and working as a teaching assistant at Oxford. We initially encounter her as she moves into a new apartment- the first of the title’s “three rooms” and begins to make her nest there. Readers who rent will recognize many of the banal indignities that come with apartment living, such as nosy neighbors and trying to make sure you get your deposit back.

Hamya contrasts this makeshift apartment living with the monolithic timelessness of Oxford and academia. Readers ponder along with the protagonist as she waxes philosophical about all the Oxodians who have passed through her building before her. In several scenes, she arrives home to find people taking pictures in front of her apartment building because of these famous names who once called it home- reminding readers that even history’s greatest have gone through awkward transitions. I was especially charmed by the scene in which our protagonist moves out of this particular apartment and has a conversation with her landlord that pierces our protagonist’s narrative like a sword and gives readers food for thought on the true nature of power.

From this first apartment, we move on to an awkward London sublease with a roommate many readers will recognize and a glossy, yet thankless, job in publishing that calls back to workplace stories like The Devil Wears Prada, before finally ending up on a train ride back to her childhood home where our protagonist must return- a plot point achingly familiar to many Millennial readers.

Check out Three Rooms at the Sioux City Public Library today!

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.

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