The All-American: A Novel (Paperback)

The All-American: A Novel By Joe Milan, Jr. Cover Image
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“Joe Milan Jr. has rocketed himself into the literary stratosphere.” —Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Introducing a character as viscerally believable and unforgettable as any in fiction, The All-American is a triumph—full of energy, dark humor, suspense, and hard-won wisdom.

Seventeen-year-old Bucky Yi knows nothing about his birth country of South Korea or his bio-dad’s disappearance; he can’t even pronounce his Korean name correctly. Running through the woods of rural Washington State with a tire tied to his waist, his sights are set on one all-American goal: to become a college football player.

So when a misadventure with his adoptive family leads the U.S. government to deport him to South Korea, he’s forced to navigate an entirely foreign version of his life. One mishap leads to another, and as an outsider, Bucky has to fall back on not just his raw physical strength, but resources of character and attitude he didn’t know he had. In an expat bar in Seoul, in the bleak barracks of his Korean military, on a remote island where an erratic sergeant fights a shadow-war with North Korean spies, and in the remote town where he seeks out his drunken, indebted biological father, Bucky has to assemble the building blocks of a new language and stubbornly rebuild himself from scratch. That means managing his ego, insecurities, sexual desires, family legacies, and allegiances in order to make it back home—wherever that might be—and determine who he is to himself, who he is to others, and what kind of man he wants to become.

About the Author

Joe Milan Jr. is a second-generation Korean American and taught in South Korea for nine years. An assistant professor of creative writing at Waldorf University, he lives in Forest City, Iowa. His website is

Praise For…

A potent, spellbinding novel about the meaning of family and the pull of home. Joe Milan Jr. is a writer with guts and talent.
— Jean Chen Ho, author of Fiona and Jane

With the speed, power, and vision of a superior running back, Joe Milan Jr. renders Bucky’s odyssey with extraordinary energy and urgency.
— Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special

With lean, propulsive prose, Joe Milan Jr. has created an unforgettable character in American fiction. Part high drama, part dark comedy of the absurd, The All-American is as wonderfully entertaining as it is moving, and I simply could not put it down. I suspect that you won’t be able to either.

— Andre Dubus III, author of Such Kindness

The increasingly manic episodes lend The All-American a resemblance to comic picaresque novels.… Bucky, a highly likable meathead, thinks better with his fists than his brain, and the shortage of introspection allows the story to zip from one calamity to another.

— Sam Sacks - Wall Street Journal

A funny and heartbreaking novel that gets to the heart of our post-national world…revealing the human consequences of white altruism and cultural myopia.
— Jess Row, author of White Flights

An explosively powerful, unpretentiously original, darkly comic novel about dreams fulfilled by the most unexpected, convoluted path. There are no model minorities, no redemptions, neither heroes nor villains, only those who strive against the odds of underprivilege. Milan’s refreshingly different voice and narrative keep you reading to the sweetly bitter and weirdly hopeful end.
— Xu Xi, author of Habit of a Foreign Sky

The All-American is a compulsively readable page-turner that continues to surprise. The novel burns with major themes and issues central to America. At its heart are the central questions: Who gets to be American, and what does it mean to belong to a country?

— Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean

The All-American is an irreverent, bold page-turner, self-assured and engrossing, this is one of those rare first novels that breathes new life into the journey toward self-revelation. Endlessly rewarding.

— Mat Johnson, author of Invisible Things

Milan sustains in his narrator an amusingly bewildered, blundering, bumptious voice along with a leavening sense of absurdity.… An unusual take on undocumented immigration that makes for a strong debut.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The setup is convincingly Kafkaesque (if devoid of absurd humor), and Milan skillfully captures Bucky’s increasing disorientation. This is a memorable riff on identity.
— Publishers Weekly

An immersive, fast-paced story.… Milan’s writing is tight, with fresh and vivid descriptions that illuminate the contrasts in Bucky’s background and cultural makeup. The novel raises questions about who and what exactly determines your identity.
— BookPage

Amid the uncomfortable laughter, Milan confronts transracial identity, societal roles chosen and forced, limits of language, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mutability, and the porousness of truth and lies.
— Booklist

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324075226
ISBN-10: 1324075228
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2024
Pages: 336
Language: English