Cruelty Special to Our Species (Ecco)
In Emily Jungmin Yoon's arresting and urgently relevant debut collection, A Cruelty Special to Our Species, she confronts the histories of sexual violence against women, focusing in particular on so-called “comfort women,” the majority of whom were Korean and who were forced into sexual labor to serve the Japanese Imperial Army in the Pacific theater of World War II.
In wrenching language, A Cruelty Special to Our Species unforgettably describes the brutalities of war and the fear and sorrow of those whose lives and bodies were swept up by a colonizing power, bringing powerful voice to an oppressed group of people whose histories have often been erased and overlooked. “What is a body in a stolen country?” Yoon asks. “What is right in war?”
In an author's note, Yoon explains that her poetry “does not exist to answer, but rather to continue asking, questions about my immigrant, ESL, Korean, and womanly experiences, or the violent history of twentieth-century Korea.” In taking on poetry about the comfort women,” she writes that "I'd like my poetry to serve to amplify and speak these women's stories, not speak for them.”
Moving readers through time, space, and different cultures, and bringing vivid life to the testimonies and confessions of the victims, Yoon takes possession of a painful and shameful history even while unearthing moments of rare beauty in acts of resistance and resilience, and in the instinct to survive and bear witness.
Emily Jungmin Yoon is the author of A Cruelty Special to Our Species (Ecco, September 2018) and Ordinary Misfortunes (Tupelo Press, July 2017), winner of the Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize. Her poems and translations have appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Poetry, and elsewhere. She has received awards and fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest, AWP’s WC&C Scholarship Competition, The Home School in Miami, the Aspen Institute, New York University, the University of Chicago, Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and Sarah Lawrence College Summer Seminar for Writers. She is the Poetry Editor for The Margins, the literary magazine of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and a PhD student in Korean literature at the University of Chicago.
Muriel Leung is the author of Bone Confetti, winner of the 2015 Noemi Press Book Award. A Pushcart Prize nominated writer, her work can be found in Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, The Collagist, Fairy Tale Review, and others. She is a recipient of fellowships to Kundiman, VONA/Voices Workshop, and Community of Writers. She is the Poetry Co-Editor of Apogee Journal. Currently, she is a Dornsife Fellow of Creative Writing and Literature at University of Southern California.
Morgan Parker is the author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, and the forthcoming poetry collection Magical Negro. Her debut young adult novel Who Put This Song On? is forthcoming in late 2019, and her debut book of nonfiction will be released in 2020. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Tin House, The Paris Review, The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, Best American Poetry 2016, The New York Times, and The Nation. She is the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, winner of a 2016 Pushcart Prize, and a Cave Canem graduate fellow. She hosts Reparations, Live!, co-curates the Poets With Attitude reading series with Tommy Pico, and with Angel Nafis she is The Other Black Girl Collective. She lives in Los Angeles.
Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
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