Review of “Folklorn” by Angela Mi Young Hur

Cover of Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur

I loved this book for many reasons. The interweaving of folktales with real and imaginary life made me question my vision of reality. The physics angle made me question my vision of reality. It’s well-plotted. The main characters are distinct, complex people I wanted to know about. The writing is fluid and rich in imagery. But what surprised me the most was the character of Oskar, a transnational, transracial adoptee who is originally from Korea but grew up in Sweden.
Adoptee characters in fiction and film usually follow a repetitive pattern. I’m a domestic adoptee, and I’ve thought a lot about Oedipus, Superman, Spiderman, and the zillions of other heroes who are separated from their parents, end up with substitute parents, go on a journey, challenge the status quo, and sometimes save the day. I challenge you, dear reader, to think of an archetypal hero who is not someone who has lost at least one parent.
Oskar, who is the possible love interest of Elsa (physicist, protagonist, and narrator) is the only transnational adoptee I can think of who is a supporting character in literature. In the 2021 adoptee community, the concept of “own voices” is often discussed, and I’m one of many who believes we adoptees should be the ones to tell our stories, not the adoptive or first parents who’ve been hogging the mic for so long. The author, Angela Hur, is not an adoptee, but in my view, she does justice to the complexity of losing biological connections and being uprooted to live with strangers. I’m interested to hear what transnational and transracial adoptees have to say about how well Hur explores the specific complexities of losing culture and being of a different race than adopters that Oskar lives with. Is Hur exploiting the TRA experience? No spoilers here, but interestingly, Oskar has written anti-adoption screeds by appropriating the stories of his fellow TRA friends — and they get pissed off.
So that’s a facet of the book that fascinates me, particularly, because of my connection to adoption, but that’s a single facet of a multi-faceted, literary, page-turning novel. I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

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