From From: Poems

Graywolf. Mar. 2023. 136p. ISBN 9781644452219. pap. $17. POETRY
In her fourth collection, Youn—a National Book Award finalist for Ignatz and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for Blackacre—incorporates historical figures and cultural tropes as she explores identity and the search for self. (The title comes from the question so often asked of Asian Americans, “Where are you from…? No—where are you from from?” From a multiple-poem study of the magpie, a traditional symbol of good news in Korea considered bad luck in Europe, she moves to a prose poem about the recent, alarming rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, juxtaposed against the backdrop of a beach community whose white residents search for shark teeth. In “Deracinations: Eight Sonigrams,” Youn develops the sonigram form, in which the letters and sound of a word are omnipresent, causing the poem to “inhabit the sonic landscape of a particular word.” Here, the poem follows the speaker through their childhood, from being read Curious George by her mother, to her introduction to Korean soap operas on VHS tapes, to enduring racist slurs and remarks from classmates.
VERDICT Youn does an extraordinary job of blending historical themes with haunting modern-day experiences to clarify sense of self. Readers will be captivated.
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