CAS Magazine: Alumni

Through Line: Novelist Jinwoo Chong (C’17) Celebrates a Banner Year

From performing at the White House to authoring a Best Book of 2023, Jinwoo Chong (C’17) stays in motion.

Jinwoo Chong (C’17) is setting the literary world ablaze. His debut novel, Flux, has been hailed as a “brain-bending pleasure,” “an imaginative exploration of how cultural memory and grief interact” and “an impossible-to-simply-label masterpiece.”

Named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, Esquire and Cosmopolitan, it centers around 8-year-old Bo, who is grieving the death of his mother; 28-year-old Brandon, who has been fired from his mid-level job; and 48-year-old Blue, who is the key witness in a criminal trial. 

A book cover that has a bright yellow background and the title Flux written in large black letters.

Jinwoo Chong’s debut novel, Flux.

Flux began as a roman à clef inspired by the Theranos scandal and the downfall of former billionaire, current imprisoned fraudster Elizabeth Holmes,” said Chong. “I decided to bend it into the realm of science/speculative fiction and introduce a loose form of time travel explored by its characters with devastating implications. It’s a novel inspired by Silicon Valley, ’80s-era detective television and the general malaise of people in their late twenties laboring under late-stage capitalism.”

Chong, who majored in English, led an active life at Georgetown, dipping his toes into a variety of extracurricular activities. 

“Back in college, you might have seen me performing with the Phantoms around campus and DC, editing The Hoya late into Monday and Thursday night, and pulling espresso shots from 11 p.m. to closing time at Midnight Mug on Wednesdays,” said Chong.

He looks back on his time at Georgetown, both in the classroom and without, fondly. 

“I did a lot of things I’ll never do again while at Georgetown,” said Chong. “I performed at the White House, broke the news of an election in real time as part of a newsroom, voted to amend bylaws and elected a new governing board of directors at The Hoya.”

He even wrote his first short story while working on his senior thesis.

“That story became one in a collection of linked fiction based on stories my parents used to tell me about their childhoods,” said Chong.

But producing work that was commercially successful, and appealed to a wide audience, wasn’t on Chong’s radar until relatively recently. 

“I had become resigned to the fact that I would just write as a hobby and nothing more,” said Chong. “This changed after I—on a whim—applied to and was accepted to the MFA program at Columbia University. While there, I was given the luxury of time. I wrote Flux, published a few short stories, signed with an agent and the rest is history.”

Chong’s next novel, I Leave It Up To You, tells the story of prodigal son, Jack Jr., who awakens from a two-year coma to discover that he’s missed the majority of the coronavirus pandemic and several life milestones.

“I wrote I Leave It Up To You while Flux was getting a less-than-ideal response from editors over the seven months it took to sell to a publisher,” said Chong. “I wrote it in part to remind me that I loved writing and couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

 It is slated for bookstores in 2025. 

Related Stories

Playing by Ear: How Sarah Trahern (C’86) Became One of the Biggest Names in Country Music

Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern (C’86) reflects on her winding career and the lessons she learned on the Hilltop.

Read Full Story
English Department
Spring 2024