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Folklorn: Identity in Histories.

Being a science-inclined individual, I tend to be drawn to books that feature as the main character, someone who is also driven by a desire to discover and study in order to reach a certain understanding of the forces that are continual and always impacting our existence and experiences.

Folklorn does that and then some. Elsa uses her love of Experimental Physics as a refuge, a grounding that allows her to escape the fantastical and otherworldly that seems to affect her mother. But when Elsa seems to be crossing that threshold where the realm of past women and their stories, she begins to wonder if what her mother had tried to tell her may be true.

Young Hur explores difficult family relationships, abuse, acceptance, racism, adoption, identity, belonging and how immigrants occupy, move through and interact in the spaces within which they exist. Our protagonist may have it down when it comes to her work, but she is still searching for her place, trying to straddle being intelligent without crushing egos or stoking resentments, expressing herself authentically in foreign settings, failing at relationships, refusing to be vulnerable, and rejecting the encroaching stories that her mother used to tell.

I love the clashing of the ethereal folktale and the tethered, changing, physical worlds; the similarities that are drawn between both, especially when it comes to the role women and girls play. Using adoption and immigration as jumping off points for our main characters to express their integration and acceptance in their now-homes, brought to the fore what experiences can shape and drive our relationships. It also added nuance to our main characters existing in spheres where they garner stereotyped and abusive interactions, and the dissimilar experiences of inhabiting societies that are white at the core.

Reading a tale where we are getting more than just a maybe haunting, maybe folktale, maybe ghost story was certainly an experience. It starts out slow, and the prose can get dense at times but the payoff is definitely found at the end. Young Hur adds in all these layered topics that humanize her characters and gives the reader something to think about. We are getting a complex exploration of family, mental illness, dissociative realities, loss, history, and grief.

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