Book Review: Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 painful, grief filled, magically important stars

Folklorn will be published on April 27, 2021, mark your calendars!

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Okay, Folklorn was just way more personal to me than I anticipated it to be. It was…. incredibly surprising how close to home it felt. Elsa grew up near me, and I grew up where her Swedish home’s people often emigrate to. I even almost ran to physics as well. Incredibly precise, and almost impossible for me to not rate this so highly. Angela Mi Young Hur was speaking directly to me!

Folklorn follows a Korean-American physicist, running away from the culture and folktales of her family and grounding herself in the solid concrete nature of science. Only to find out that you can’t escape your history, and science reflects our lives more than we think.

I honestly don’t even know how to review this book. It was beautiful, challenging, eye-opening. The integration of physics to ground Elsa, and to ground me, with the magical exploration of long told and oft lost folktales was stunning. Elsa’s search for herself pushed me to also search for myself within the pages, only to find myself just about as well as she did, in a constant journey.

Every little bit of this book is important, and I felt I couldn’t miss anything. From the mention of permanent makeup, especially eyebrows, to communities of immigrants giving each other loans to buy houses and start businesses. Small moments giving us a glimpse into these important, beautiful, communities. Seeing how people are able to band together and grow together by helping each other out in these communities really highlights the importance of the communities we build. All the way down to the moment where we realize that those of us of the diaspora have full right to the stories of our ancestors. It is all deeply important.

Anyway, I feel that I can’t put into words how this book felt so close to me so I will just say: go read it. It’s wonderful.

Read Folklorn. It is important. It is beautiful, and wonderful, and I absolutely applaud what Angela Mi Young Hur was able to accomplish here.

I received this ARC for free and am leaving this review voluntarily

Angela Hur received a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard and an MFA in Creative Writing from Notre Dame, where she won the Sparks Fellowship and the Sparks Prize, a post-graduate fellowship. Her debut The Queens of K-Town was published by MacAdam/Cage in 2007. It has been assigned in Asian-American literature classes at Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of British Columbia, and University of Seoul.

Folklorn was chosen by Kelly Link for a Tin House novel mentorship through the Tin House Summer Workshop, where Hur also studied with Alexander Chee and Mat Johnson, and later with Peter Ho Davies at the Napa Valley Writers Conference.

Hur has taught English Literature and Creative Writing at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, in Seoul, Korea. She’s also taught for Writopia, a U.S. non-profit providing creative writing workshops for children and teens. While living in Stockholm, Sweden, she’s worked as a Staff Editor for SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. She is currently living in Stockholm, with her husband and children.