photograph by Kristyn Stroble

Writer: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Essays

My official bio:

Christine Hyung-Oak Lee is the author of a memoir (TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER–February 14, 2017) and a novel (THE GOLEM OF SEOUL) forthcoming from Ecco / Harper Collins. Her short fiction and essays have appeared  in  ZYZZYVA, Guernica, The Rumpus, The New York Times, and BuzzFeed, among other publications. She is a Features Editor at The Rumpus.

Born in New York City, Christine earned her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and her MFA at Mills College. She has been awarded a residency at Hedgebrook, and her pieces have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and placed in competitions such as the Poets and Writers’ Magazine Writers Exchange Contest, Glimmer Train Fiction Open, and others.


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My super-short bio:

Wants to be Gryffindor, but is really Hufflepuff.

My social media bio:

Hufflepuff. Honeybadger. Crisis Unicorn. Nuclear Submarine. Miracle Berry. Writer. Mom. Contralto. Night Cheese Eater. Memoir TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER (2017) and Novel THE GOLEM OF SEOUL (2018), both forthcoming from Ecco.

My honest writer bio:

Christine works at a dining room table at which no one actually eats surrounded by piles of teaching materials and student papers that need constant grading and she writes with a needy geriatric wiener dog who smells like corn chip Fritos on her lap and another needy wiener dog with feral survival tendencies who is up to no good somewhere in the kitchen. She should be running and exercising, but instead she is baking cookies and eating them. By herself. In front of her laptop. Trying to revise her novel. She is very pale.


  1. I just read your essay on buzzfeed. Wow. That is all I can say. You are absolutely inspiring in so many ways. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing (so beautifully) about your experience. You are an incredibly talented and strong woman. Thank you for writing, and please never stop.

  2. I echo Janine’s comment- what a frightening thing to read, but thank you for having the courage to write it.

  3. I also just finished reading your article from buzzfeed. It was so good! You are an amazingly talented writer and I look forward to reading more of your writing. Good luck with your novel…I can’t wait for it to come out!

  4. Well, golly. I just read your essay about the stroke. I had a very similar experience three years ago, at age 43. I am awestruck by your ability to describe this experience you had. My experience was so similar I can’t tell you. The perception changes, the fatigue, the sleep, memory, PFO and subsequent closure. So many things. Thank you for writing this, it really is spectacular.

  5. xtinehlee,
    I read your article earlier today and watched it rocket to the front page and top of HN. Congratulations. On that, on living to scribble on paper and then move those notes into digital form, then pushing publish (after editing) for us to read. Above all, thank you for expressing yourself in what I find to be an honest way.

    I’ve added a link to my own site. A small thing, but small matters, I reckon.

    • Thank you so much, Gwen! My memoir (TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER) will be published by Ecco /Harper Collins on February 14, 2017! I hope you will buy and read, and that it will live up to the essay that so many people read.

  6. Christine, I just finished reading your Buzzfeed article. Wow, you are a walking miracle and inspiration! Thank you for being brave enough to share your personal story and journey through such a life altering health condition. I’ve had my share of physical health issues at an early age and your story is so inspiring and gave me affirmation that the human spirit has the strength to work through anything! Thank you and I hope that you continue to grow personally and professionally through your journey 🙂

  7. Just read the buzz feed essai. My mind is completely blown by the brutally honest and straight forward writting style. This essai left me with no words, I am still trying to process it. It is beautifully violent. Look forward to reading more. Thanks for sharing. Never stop. Please 🙂

  8. I read your essay on buzzfeed as well. Your story is fascinating & you write so beautifully. I look forward to reading your novel one day.

  9. I just finished reading your essay, I can relate to so many things you wrote. I had a stroke two days after my 23rd birthday in April, 1985, I had brain surgery and was paralyzed on my left side. I was in the hospital for one month .I fought years to rehabilitate and be me again. We have so much in common. I only wish I could put my experience on paper like you. I appreciate your gift and thanks for sharing I know about struggling but looking great on the outside.

  10. Hi, Christine, I, too, just read your essay on BuzzFeed and wanted to thank you for it. Sorry if my reactions are a tumble–so much comes to mind. First, the obligatory “me too.” I had a “benign” perimesencephalic subarachnoid brain hemorrhage on November 14, 2010. I was a bit older–50–but not the usual stroke patient, and I also lacked the FAST symptoms (which it seems apply more to ischemic than hemorrhagic strokes) and spent exactly ten days in the hospital. You mentioned not remembering any of the names of those who took care of you, and that struck my heart for you–I was obsessed with learning the names of everyone who treated me, and I was lucky enough to be able to do so. When I filled out the survey card at the end of my hospital stay, I listed every single one of them, though I have forgotten most by now, alas. I still remember sweet Carmelita, who prepped me for my first angiogram when I was so terrified.

    The following year, I had another whole round of brain symptoms (various drop attacks, dizziness, numbness, etc.) and MRI spots, which they have never fully diagnosed, in spite of a flurry of tests. TIAs? MS? No one knows, so we just wait.

    About the insensitivity of others, I could go on for pages, but will just send a link to me reading one of my poems about this (published in a chapbook with Finishing Line Press earlier this year): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu_TykoPcsY. The things that healthy people say to the ill demonstrate in a nutshell the deep ineptitude of humanity. They don’t mean to be cruel, I tell myself.

    What you say about how your stroke changed your life (partly by saving your life) also resonates, though I have no triumphant story of shaking off the past. But, yes, my priorities and ways of thinking are so different now. What you said about being unable to write fiction after your stroke also reminded me of Andre Dubus (not his son AB III), who was a famous short story writer before he was severely injured in and disabled by an accident. He gave up fiction and wrote essays ever after, and you might be interested in his wonderful collection, Broken Vessels, that talks about this some, especially the essay “On Charon’s Wharf.”

    Let me say that I read a lot of illness memoirs, and I seldom reach out. Sometimes there’s something that bothers me about the “me too” stories, though, of course, we find support, even friendship in them. But your writing really impressed me with its combination of straightforwardness and yet reserve. Maybe that has to do with lack of memory, but it makes for powerful prose in your piece. Thanks for your story with its thoughtful observations over what I know is deep pain and struggle.

  11. Hi Christine,

    I also read your story about your experiences with stroke. You’re a talented writer. I hope that someday your talents are recognized. There was something, though, about your story that sort of bothered me. I am hoping you respond, either via email or publicly, because I was hoping for some insights from the recovered you.

    You wrote that as you were recovering, your “friends” were calling you high-maintenance and basically telling you to get over it. I am just curious, are you still friends with these people. If not, I’m glad. You deserve better than that. Also, how did that experience affect your future relationships? I ask because I noticed that when I got sick with cancer, people started to slowly drop out of my social circle. When I recovered, I decided not to reach out to them since I felt like I was made an outcast. It has now distorted my views on the genuineness of people. I really keep people at a distance now. Thoughts?

    • Hi @MSG Thank you for reading! I will say–I write a little about this in my upcoming memoir. I have forgiven most. And from others, I walked away (and they walked away from me). Most important is to realize that at some point, it’s not about your own limitations but theirs. There is so much grief in recovery!

  12. Just read your article on Buzzfeed. All I can say is…wow. You are a true inspiration and your writing is beautiful. Can’t wait for your novel.

    Best wishes

  13. I read your buzz feed article and then went on to read your story about getting hit with a car. Your writing is amazing and I will love to read your novel when it comes out. Your whole story was fascinating and I’m sorry you had to have that experience in life.
    Never stop writing, it adds beauty to the world.

  14. Christine,

    You’re incredibly talented. It’s been a while since a story moved me like yours did. It actually pushed me to leaving you a little reply, because you totally deserve it.
    Fascinating how you came out of that situation so strong.

    Take care
    – a new fan from Holland

  15. As a budding neurologist, I was struck by your story. I appreciate your ability to articulate your experience. Stroke can manifest in myriad ways and oftentimes patients are rendered incapable of describing their ordeal. Yet you’ve done so in beautiful, vivid detail. This is invaluable for healthcare providers especially. Understanding the experience is vital for offering the best care. Thanks for the essay and all the best!

  16. Hi Christine. I also had a stroke (TIA) at age 33. So many familiar echos in your story – same but different. Thank you for writing and sharing… And thinking I need to go get an echocardiogram. Best ~ L

  17. Your BuzzFeed article is poignant yet strikingly beautiful for self empowerment, thanks for writing that! I couldn’t remember if you mentioned what caused the stroke not that if you have been told? I hope that you continue to write articles that will showcase you as a piquant writer.

  18. 이현옥 I too had what they now call a Cerebral Vascular Accident almost three years ago at the age of 54. It attacked me and temporarily paralyzed my right side for a day. What the CVA did that affected me more was it took my vocabulary. For a person who wanted to eventually be the next Garrison Keillor, it was devastating. My neurologist told me I was lucky and to keep a journal to regain the words I lost. Now, after 33 months, I can communicate most of the time, but still forget commonly used words and have to work my way around them. On a humorous note, even though I lost the vast majority of my native English language, I only lost my ability to write in Korean, but not my ability to speak or understand it. So, keep working young lady and you will overcome any obstacles you encounter. God Bless.

  19. Sorry, I misspelled your name.

  20. Hello Christine, I am very interested in your story as I too am a writer and stroke survivor. I am currently writing a book, which is a collection of interviews and short stories about the experiences of real life stroke survivors and their carer’s experiences. I believe it is very important to raise funds and awareness about stroke in order to do more research to find a cure. I think it is important to have a wide spectrum of people in my book to show that stroke can happen to anybody; therefore I would like to include you in it. If this is something of interest to you, then please contact me via email.

  21. I came across your blog post as it was reposted on a blog I subscribe to;, brokenbrilliant.wordpress.com. So much of what TBI and stroke patients suffer is similar. My daughter suffered a second traumatic brain injury and has been struggling with her recovery the past six months. I have wished for her to write as I believe in its healing powers and its value as memory tool as she has difficulty with short-term memory and word finding among other symptoms, fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentraiting. I wanted to thank you for writing a out your experiences to give hope to others. Having an event like a stoke or TBI changes one forever, but through writing and reading about it, one can find oneself again and heal and not feel quite so alone.

    Additionally, your post-partum articles resonated with me. I had such a difficult time after my first daughter’s birth. Too many major changes in my life at the time, an undiagnosed problem of reflux disease in my baby that left both of us with very little sleep, and cultural expectations (my husband’s family is Chinese, but I am not) complicated the hormonal shifts. What a dark and lonely period and I am so relieved to have survived it.

    Thank you for your directness and depth in your writing. It touches others.

  22. Marino Tatara

    June 16, 2015 at 8:33 pm


    I’m from Brazil and I just read your article. It almost make me cry.
    I hope you are doing good after all.

  23. Amazed at your journey and wishing you the best. I suffered for many years from progressive loss of social abilities and neuropsychiatric sympotoms until I met a neurologist who did full work up and found mini stroke damage and diagnosed me with Hashimotos Encephalopathy, a brain disease. I was also found to have late stage lyme disease and many co infections. I am in recovery now and doing well, but the last ten years haunt me, they are a confusing jumble of memories and dysfunction,. Mostly I recall struggling tremendously during that time and feeling like everyone close to me had turned their backs on me. I still live in fear often, and I think that’s just part of my disease. I too am a writer in my spare time, and it’s affected my vocabulary and processing skills. I wish you the best and encourage you to keep telling your story. I cannot wait to read your memoir.

    • @RM: I’m so glad my story resonates with you. While I was in recovery, I felt great comfort in hearing other stories and as a result, feeling less isolated. And thank you for buying and reading my memoir!

  24. I really enjoyed your new book. Last July 2016 I had a stroke – right frontal cva with left hemiparasis with diphasia. I am well on the road to recovery but your book brought some great insights. “But surviving my stroke pushed me to believe that my life could be better. That I could – that I had to – live a better life based on personal priorities, one centered on pursuing my dreams, one without regret.” Thsee words of yours made a great impact on me bringing into focus what I want to do with my life. Many thanks, Jeff

  25. Hi Christine
    I had listened to an audio & visual version of you talking about your stroke happening but of course (my stroke brain!!) can’t relocate it now. Delighted to at least have remembered your first name and got you on google. Can you possibly send me a link to your online (Facebook?) post with the audio link please?

  26. Just read Permission to Marry. Beautiful, layered, nuanced, and hits right in the heart. Thank you.

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