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Folklorn, by Angela Mi Young Hur

Review copy provided by Erewhon Books.

“How are you doing?” a family member asked, and I said, “This book about Korean family and identity is making me ache for Stockholm.” “No, your entire personality is making you ache for Stockholm,” was the response I got, and it was not entirely wrong, but it was not entirely right either, Angela Mi Young Hur absolutely did have a hand in these feelings with the descriptions she wrote of walking across the bridge into Gamla Stan in the winter.

But the rest of the book, the experience of this book. Okay. This is about Elsa, a neutrino physicist doing a postdoc in Antarctica (to begin with). It’s about Elsa, who is someone’s daughter and someone’s little sister and trying to figure out what it means for her to be someone. And particularly it is about Elsa’s relationship with the folktales her Korean immigrant mother has told her–who and what is she descended from, what does it all mean, who is this mysterious girl/woman who has been part of her life since childhood but seems to be invisible to everyone else.

It’s a fascinating book, and it’s a singular one. There’s no way you can say, “Oh, another one of those.” I am particularly intrigued to see what Hur decides to do next, because this doesn’t feel like a book that can have a sequel or a direct companion volume. It feels like she is going to launch herself into something else equally unique, and I am so excited to see it, and in the meantime so excited to have this one to revisit. Recommended.

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