Hurt You

By Marie Myung-Ok Lee

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Release

05-16-23

Abridgement

Unabridged

Genre

Fiction/Coming-of-Age

Release

05-16-23

Abridgement

Unabridged

Genre

Fiction/Coming-of-Age

Overview

Inspired by the unabashed social realism of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Hurt You moves beyond the quasi-fraternal bond of the unforgettable George and Lenny to explore an actual sibling bond of Georgia, sister to Leonardo da Vinci Daewoo Lee, who has an unnamed neurological disability that resembles autism. The race, disability, and class themes spin themselves out not on a ranch but in a suburban high school where the Lee family has moved from the city for better services for Leonardo.

Suddenly unmoored from the familiar, including the support of her Aunt Clara, Georgia struggles to find her place in an Asian-majority school where whites still dominate culturally, and she finds herself also feeling not Korean “enough.” Her one pole star is her commitment to her brother, a loyalty that finds itself at odds with her immigrant parents’ dreams for her, and an ableist, racist society that may bring violence to Leonardo despite her efforts to keep him safe.

Steinbeck was fearless about bringing his stories to realistic, not tidy, conclusions that reflected actual society in the 1930s. Of Mice and Men’s Lenny was to some eyes a monster and a killer; in the 2020s, Hurt You reflects statistics that a person with intellectual disability is much more likely to be a victim, not a perpetrator, of violent crimes, despite enduring stereotypes that they are the ones who should be feared.

Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Author Biography

Marie Myung-Ok Lee is the author of Somebody’s Daughter, the YA novel Finding My Voice (heralded as the first Korean American #ownvoices novel for teens), and middle-grade novels If It Hadn’t Been for Yoon Jun and Night of the Chupacabras. Her books have won awards such as Friends of American Writers, New York Public Library’s Best Books for the Teen Age, and NCTE’s Children’s Choice. She has been a judge for the National Book Awards, a Fulbright Fellow, and one of the first Korean American journalists allowed into North Korea. She currently teaches creative writing as a writer-in-residence at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity & Race. She has an adult son on the autistic spectrum who helped to inspire her latest novel.