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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Review: Angel & Hannah by Ishle Yi Park

Angel & Hannah
by Ishle Yi Park

Thanks so much to One World for this beautiful copy.

Publisher: One World
Publish Date: May 11, 2021
192 Pages
Genres: Asian Literature, Poetry

This sweeping, unforgettable reimagining of Romeo and Juliet tells the story of an interracial couple in 1990s New York City who are determined to protect their love against all odds

Hannah, a Korean American girl from Queens, New York, and Angel, a Puerto Rican boy from Brooklyn, fall in love in the spring of 1993. Hannah, who comes from a strict Korean home, meets Angel, a free and beautiful boy, at a quinceaera:

Beyond flushed, sweating bodies pushed,
pushing like cattle below black & buzzing speakers, under a torn pink streamer
loose as a tendril of hair--lush--
his eyes. Darkluminous. Warm. A blush floods her.
Hannah sucks in her breath, but can't pull back.
Music fades. A hush
he's a young buck in the underbrush,
still in a disco ball dance of shadow & light
Their forbidden love instantly and wildly blooms along the Jackie Robinson Expressway.

Told in seasons Angel & Hannah holds all of the tension and cadence of blank verse while adding dynamic and expressive language, creating new kinds of engrossing and magnetic forms. The hip-hop sonnets and poems are dynamic, arresting, observant, and magical, conveying the intimacies and sacrifices of love and addiction and the devastating realities of struggle and loss.

Committed to cultural details and the vernacular of Queens and Brooklyn, this is a hip-hop love story, not of the Capulets and the Montagues, but two New York City kids trying to survive and grow within their families and communities, driven by an all-consuming love. 

My Review:

Poetry has never really been my thing.  I have read some poetry that I have enjoyed but never felt I could review or read poetry collections.  However, this past year, I've been introduced to some stories in verse and I think this is my best way to go with poetry and I'm loving it.

Angel & Hannah is equally hopeful and joyous as it is sad, hard and challenging.  Hannah, a Korean American girl from Queens (oh, that's me too, YAY) and Angel is a Puerto Rican boy from Brooklyn.  This is their version of Romeo & Juliet as this interracial couple grows together while facing hardships.  Park certainly doesn't deviate from subjects such as racism, poverty, culture and classism.  She also doesn't deviate from showing the absolute beauty of both of these cultures.  I don't think I can even come up with the right words for how gorgeous this story is.  

Some parts were heartbreaking.  And this story is told in a very raw voice.  I think the intensity is met with lyrically gorgeous storytelling that gives us a balance of gritty beauty.  Certainly a thinking piece and one that would do well for a book club discussion.  I can't recommend this enough.


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