BRIANNA HIRAMI WRITES – Falling in love is already hard enough as it is without the constant fear of being outcasted for who you love. When your and your loved ones’ identity is not socially acceptable in society, it makes the thought of falling in love absolutely terrifying. One becomes incessantly haunted by the terror-inducing questions like “what if they find out what I am?” and “What if someone can tell what I am?”
This incredibly emotional tale by South Korean author, Sang Young Park, tells the story of a gay man, Young. He lives in Seoul, South Korea, and his turbulent relationships with men in a culture that is not yet fully accepting of homosexuality. The novel begins with him and his best friend, Jaehee, discovering more about their sexuality through pointless hookups and rambunctious behavior. The reader witnesses Young dealing with homophobia from a young age and how gay relationships were often kept in the shadows. The story then dives into Young’s relationship with his mother and how she was utterly repulsed by her son’s sexuality and constantly nagged him to find a girlfriend. The last half of the novel narrates his more serious relationships as he transcends into adulthood and discovers what love truly is.
Sang Young Park worked as a magazine editor, copywriter, and consultant before releasing his novel, The Tears of an Unknown Artist, in 2018. He studied French literature at Sungkyunkwan University and resides in Seoul, South Korea. Love in the Big City ranked high on the top 5 lists of significant Asian books and went into nine printings. Anton Hur impeccably translates Parks’ work to allow the reader to feel the raw emotion that his characters exude. The translation throughout Love in the Big City is so beautifully natural that it is often easy to forget that this was first written in Korean. Hur has received multiple awards for his translations and has taught the art of translation at many Universities.
Love in the Big City unveils the tragic reality of how queer people are outcasted from society for something utterly natural that they cannot control. Park critiques Korea’s homophobic society by displaying the emotional crises that Young endures as he discreetly devotes his love to men behind closed doors, as he is too shy and ashamed to touch their hand in public out of fear of the backlash. In an especially vulnerable moment, Young laments, “Yes, that’s right, I am ashamed of you. You want to hold my hand in public, you call me baby. I mean, what would anyone think?”
Young agonizes over hiding his true self in a society that only seems to hate him and constantly pressures him to conform to their restrictive norms. Through Young’s struggles with creating lasting relationships in an unwelcoming environment, Park shows the lasting damage that a heteronormative society has on queer people.
Brianna Hirami is a recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University with a major in English and a minor in Asian and Pacific Studies.
Edited by book review editor-in-chief, Ella Kelleher.