“I feel like I don’t belong anywhere and every day it’s like I live on this weird little planet of my own in exile.” I say all in one breath. This is impossible to talk about. But I force myself to. “I’m not Korean enough. I’m not white enough to be fully American.”
Frankly in Love is a relatable take on race, identity and the tension between traditional family expectations vs the wants and needs of a modern American upbringing. Frank Li is straddling two worlds. The world his Korean born parents inhabit, and the world of SATs, first loves, Dungeons and Dragons, after school jobs. That is, the life of a regular American teen. Except he can’t seem to escape that pesky hyphen in between ‘Korean’ and ‘American’.
Enter Britt Means. His dream girl who also happens to be white. He and his fellow hyphenated friend Joy – also experiencing similar non Korean boy troubles- start a fake dating scheme to allow them to real date their respective partners. And then life takes an unexpected turn.
I loved this book. What stood out to me is the similarity of the immigrant experience, regardless of cultural background or adopted home. The pressure around who you date, what you study, vs the freedom to do whatever you want, dangled in front of you like a tantalising carrot. The weight of expectation, of achieving things your parents couldn’t but also making their whole journey – uprooting family, leaving friends, family, career behind- worth it is something that weighs on Frank. How long do we have to be thankful for the sacrifices our parents made? Never before have I seen this captured so perfectly in the pages of a book.
Frank’s relationship with his parents took my breath away. The simple routine of his father’s life which Frank surmised to be boring, brought Frank Sr so much joy and was probably everything he dreamt of in Korea. Owning a store. Being successful. Seeing his children grow up safe and with every opportunity. The last quarter of this book actually destroyed me. Metaphor incoming: It’s a poignant reminder to be mindful of the things we have now, because even if the grass looks greener on the other side, it’s probably just AstroTurf 💁🏻♀️