So, after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to start writing discussion posts on TSW! And, after reading a few different books, I decided I would try my hand at a topic that is under some controversy as of now what with the excitement of #WeNeedDiverseBooks. One of the books that sparked my interest in this discussion topic is HELLO, I LOVE YOU by Katie M. Stout. It’s a book about K-pop, set in Korea. Naturally, I had to read it.
Here’s an excerpt of my review that pretty much sums up how I felt:
Basically, here’s my ultimatum for you: If you want to read this book because you like Kpop, don’t read it. If you only get one thing out of this review, this ^^ should be it.
I think that with HELLO, I LOVE YOU, I really got to know the definition of love/hate. I loved that a book was being written about Korea and about kpop, but I also hated it. It seemed too much like it was this fan-fiction dream story. In the words of Goodreads user sunset shimmer,
Gurl. This sounds to me like it’s specifically made to fulfill the fantasies of certain hormonal young K-POP fans. But, I suppose I could give it the benefit of the doubt. Ish.
That’s exactly how I feel like it is. But as someone who is Korean, is a kpop fan, and loves Korean music and culture in general, I had to check out this book.
On my general opinion, I didn’t love the book. I would say 1.5 stars. It just didn’t work for me, my reasons for which I’ll be going over below. Maybe that’s because it just wasn’t real enough to me, but it wasn’t enough period. There were good parts, there are bad parts, just like every book. It’s a far cry from Park Sakura-Lopez, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel like Chad Future or even an above-par fan fiction.
There’s been a kind of Goodreads outrage about this book from book bloggers who really wanted something from HELLO, I LOVE YOU but instead got cultural indifference/ignorance at a massively disappointing scale. I, just purely as an observer, would say that this is partially due the author never having been to Korea and didn’t seem to know much about it outside of the kpop world–or even the deeper aspects of the kpop culture.
I can’t say anything for sure; all I can say is that in HELLO, I LOVE YOU, there was a lot of acting like Korea is a third world country that I didn’t appreciate. Like I mentioned in my review, there was a lot of grumble going around about Katie being white, but that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with hunkering down, doing research if you don’t already know your subject and writing what you want to write. You can speak any languge fluently and be of whatever past or whatever appearance you were doled out. When life gives you lemons, you know.
For example, Paula Stokes.
One of her to-be-released novels (VICARIOUS) is about a Korean stunt girl. I know that Paula has lived in Korea, and knows a ton of different aspects to the culture and world even if she isn’t Korean. She’s also spent a lot of time researching.
Another example is Jay Kristoff.
He’s not Japanese, but he wrote an award-winning Japanese steampunk fantasy (which is pretty amazing, if I do say so myself).
The point is that I think people should write what they want to write. Write what truly inspires them and makes them want to write, but it should be accurate, well-researched and well-written. This isn’t just for the readers, but for the credibility of the writer and the group of people or animals or whatever they’re writing about. It should bring justice to whatever it is they’re writing about. As a writer who doesn’t know about what they want to write about, writing about someone else’s culture, someone else’s history, someone else’s life should at the very least be accurately portrayed to the best of the writer’s ability.
I think it’s okay to branch out, but keep in mind that as a writer, you have your own stories to tell the world. They may not necessarily be the ones that the world HAS to hear from you, or the ones that will make the most impact, to you or to others. Even so, you have your own stories to tell. It’s great to branch out though, to discover more and experience more before you let the magic happen.
What do you think of authors writing what they “don’t know?”
Should writers write what they don’t know, or stick with what they know?