Ep. 152 Joseph Han

Photo credit: Huan He

This episode features returning It’s Lit alum Joseph Han and the music he’s chosen to with his work. Previously featured on our episodes 14 and 71, he also contributed to our 2018 episode 52, which had a themed call for materials titled “There Is No Missile: False Alarms and Real Threats.”

Today’s show features the first chapter of Joseph’s debut novel, Nuclear Family, whose jacket copy reads as follows:

Things are looking up for Mr. and Mrs. Cho. Their dream of franchising their Korean plate lunch restaurants across Hawaiʻi seems within reach after a visit from Guy Fieri boosts the profile of Cho’s Delicatessen. Their daughter, Grace, is busy finishing her senior year of college and working for her parents, while her older brother, Jacob, just moved to Seoul to teach English. But when a viral video shows Jacob trying—and failing—to cross the Korean demilitarized zone, nothing can protect the family from suspicion and the restaurant from waning sales. No one knows that Jacob has been possessed by the ghost of his lost grandfather, who feverishly wishes to cross the divide and find the family he left behind in the north. As Jacob is detained by the South Korean government, Mr. and Mrs. Cho fear their son won’t ever be able to return home, and Grace gets more and more stoned as she negotiates her family’s undoing. Struggling with what they don’t know about themselves and one another, the Chos must confront the separations that have endured in their family for decades. Set in the months leading up to the 2018 false missile alert in Hawaiʻi, Joseph Han’s profoundly funny and strikingly beautiful debut novel is an offering that aches with histories inherited and reunions missed, asking how we heal in the face of what we forget and who we remember.

PhDJ about a third of the way into the novel right now, and she’s really enjoying how the novel alternates in perspective, with each chapter following a rotating cast of characters who bring their unique perspective into the storytelling. The first chapter has the grandfather at the helm, stuck in multilayered limbo: on one side of the wall between the living and the forgotten dead, and in a South Korea that faces a DMZ uncrossable even, it seems, in the afterlife.

We hope this episode lets this mysterious first chapter hook you so deep you rush out to preorder your copy of Nuclear Family to see how the story ends! #nuclearfamily #josephhan #onekorea #demilitarizehawaii

Wherever you are in the world, we hope you’ll join us in toasting Joseph’s novel too. Here are some upcoming tour dates:


Joseph Han (he/him, they/them) is the author of Nuclear Family (Counterpoint Press, June 2022) and a 2022 National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree. A recipient of a Kundiman fellowship, he was named a Publishers Weekly “Writer to Watch” in Spring 2022, while his work has appeared in Nat.BrutCatapultPleiades Magazine, and Platypus Press Shorts. He is an Editor for the West region of Joyland Magazine and has a Ph.D. in English & Creative Writing from the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa. He currently lives in Honolulu. Follow him on @hanjoseph (Twitter/IG) and find more on his website: joseph-han.com.  


  1. Denzel Curry, “Walkin
  2. Lit: NUCLEAR FAMILY 1 (beginning of the novel, chapter 1, pp. 3-5)
  3. Moses Sumney, “Cut Me
  4. Lit: NUCLEAR FAMILY 2 (chapter 1 pp. 5-7)
  5. Deb Never, “end of the world
  6. Lit: NUCLEAR FAMILY 3 (chapter 1, pp. 7-9)
  7. Tierra Whack, “Heaven
  8. Author interview
  9. FKA Twigs, “meta angel” 


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