Saturday 26 August 2023

Book Review: A Century of Queer Korean Fiction by Samuel Perry (Ed.) (LGBT Fiction)

Title: A Century of Queer Korean Fiction
Author: Samuel Perry (Ed.)
Publisher: Modern Language Association of America
Publication Date: 8 December 2023
Pages: 316
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: LGBT Fiction
Source: ARC via Edelweiss

Following decades of LGBTQ+ activism, South Korea has seen a flowering of queer literature, film, and Internet culture. Many openly gay, lesbian, transgender, and other queer Korean writers find themselves in the national and international spotlight. But the rich variety of queer representation also extends into the Korean past, as this volume illustrates.

Beginning with contemporary works of fiction by Kim Bi, Sang Young Park, and Yi Seoyoung and reaching back through the last century, this collection includes works by the canonical authors Yi Kwangsu, Yi Kiyŏng, Ch'oe Chŏnghŭi, and O Chŏnghŭi as well as stories by Yu Sŭngjin and Kim Sunyŏng that have been recovered from archives. The introduction places these representations of queerness in their historical and cultural context, explores the sometimes problematic norms found in the stories, and considers the potential these texts hold for destabilizing binaries of sex and gender.

This volume contains the following "Yundo Is Back" (2017), "My Queer Year of Junior High" (2016), "Saltwater Baths" (2006), "Traditional Solo" (1970), "Struggling amid This Despair" (1965), "Spring" (1950), selections from the novel Spring (1940), "Dear Sister, I'm Off to the Moon" (1933), and "Yun Kwangho" (1918).


A Century of Queer Korean Fiction was a pleasing collection of tales and a fascinating look at the history of LGBT fiction in Korea. I would say, though, that despite a 300+ page count, only about 200 pages are actually the selection of fiction, as all the introductory material ran for about 90 pages! While the information in this introduction was interesting, the length of it was wearying when I wanted to get to the stories. It might have been better to do a quick general introduction and then have the more detailed introductions to the stories themselves split up, so each story was prefaced by a short introduction outlining its place in history and any relevant background information, especially since by the time I'd read through 90+ pages to get the stories I had forgotten some of the contextual information given anyway. Having it immediately before each tale would have eliminated this problem. But once I got to the stories, I enjoyed them, so this is still a very worthwhile collection for anyone interested in the history of LGBT fiction and in Korean fiction. I am giving it 4.5 stars.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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