Some Are Always Hungry by Jihyun Yun
Published by University of Nebraska Press, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This collection of poetry is predominantly focussed on the physical and emotional hardships of the immigrant experience, and the ways this trauma can be passed from one generation to the next. The use of language is visceral, the structure playful, and several lines throughout hit me like a sucker punch.
There is such reverence for food in this collection, and I thought this recurring motif was used really effectively. Yun explores the art and ritual of food preparation, celebrating its ability to connect families with their heritage; tastes and smells transporting them to their homeland. But she also comments on the intense, animalistic consumption that is often inherent to those who have known true hunger.
Though deeply personal, the collection pulls back at times to take in wider contextual details, exploring the various factors that can push people to relocate in the first place. War, Occupation, abuse, and poverty are all touched upon, as are the various issues that await immigrants when they reach their new homes, such as racism, language barriers, and a pressure to shed aspects of their identities – even down to their birthnames.
While it’s fair to say there isn’t a huge amount of light to balance the themes’ innate melancholy, it’s an impressive collection overall, and Yun is a poet I’m glad to have discovered.
Thank you to the publisher for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.