Author

Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Marie Myung-Ok Lee
  • 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.

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