“We doing okay, Frankie. You going college? Nice girl meeting? Make beautiful baby? That’s it. I die, oh Frankie-ya, you doing good, I smiling smiling. Final breath I taking before shuffle off this mortal coil.”
You know how people sometimes ask which books would you tell people to read if you want them to get to know you? If you want to get to know me, Frankly in Love is one of those books.
I buddy read this with Sandra from gotathingforthings, and I’m so glad I did because I would have DNF’d this at 100 pages if I hadn’t. I went into this book with the wrong mindset because it’s been marketed as a romcom when the romance isn’t really a huge part of the book. I thought I would be reading a story about a boy with strict Korean parents who falls in love with a girl outside his race and spends the whole story working around his parents. Eventually, the parents would see the error of their ways and everyone would live happily ever after…or something like that. But this is definitely not that, Frankly in Love is about family, ethnic identity, and finding your place in the world. Asian-Americans, you should definitely read this book!
It starts off with Frank Li, an incredibly book smart Korean-American senior in high school who’s studying for the SAT’S, an exam that will help determine which colleges he may get into. His parents are Korean immigrants who work at and own a grocery store, don’t speak English fluently, and have very traditional views. Because Frank was born and raised in America, he and his parents’ views often clash. Knowing this, and knowing his parents are racist against anyone who isn’t Korean, Frank becomes worried when he begins to date Brit, a white girl. As a result, he and his family and Korean friend, Joy, devise a plan to fake date in order to cover up their interracial relationships.
100 pages into this story, I wanted to DNF it. I felt the writing style was sporadic and full of way too many onomatopoeia that didn’t mesh well with me. Story wise, I could not stand Frank and his relationship with Brit. I am all for and have also been in an interracial relationship, but I didn’t like that Frank kept making excuses for Brit’s microaggressions because she was a “woke” white person and somethings she just “didn’t know about.” I also didn’t like that he had nothing good to say about his parents. It felt like Frank resented them for living in their own world and making it seem like everyone else had to fit in it. But luckily, Frank grows up.
As the story progresses Frank starts to see that though Brit may have educated herself, she is still on the outside looking in. Brit can empathize with being Asian-American, but it doesn’t shape her like it shapes Frank. He still doesn’t point this out to Brit, but at the very least he begins to ponder it. What really changes is how Frank views his parents. He starts to question why his parents work at a grocery store, what it was like for them to fall in love in Korea and move to America, and why they are so stubbornly Korean. They go from adults who provided for him but didn’t understand him, to people who struggled to create a better life for themselves and their family. Once Frank realizes this, he slowly starts to see the love in his parents’ work and actions.
This is another book I feel I can’t do justice. So many scenes and quotes are running through my mind and I keep walking away to think about them again. I am not Korean-American, but I am Filipino-American, and Frank’s relationship with his parents is spot on with my relationship with my parents. First, I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I have an amazing relationship with my parents. Growing up, my relationship with my parents was exactly like that of Frank and his parents: The parents provide so the kids can grow up better than they did. ‘Til this day, my parents take that “parents provide” thing seriously, and I have been spoiled rotten because of it. If my parents could give me the world, they would, and I love them so much for that.
But growing up, I didn’t see that that was what my parents were doing. I just saw that they weren’t affectionate with me like my friend’s parents were, and everything they did was wrong because everything everyone else did felt better. I pulled away from my parents and Filipino culture and became more “Americanized.” It took me years and a couple of pep talks from my parents to make me comfortable enough to wonder and care enough to ask my parents about who they are and what their life used to be like and why they are the way they are. And once I started asking those questions and getting some answers, my parents’ beliefs and mannerisms suddenly all made sense (That’s the less drama-filled version of how it went down anyways lol >.>). Again, I know this isn’t how it happens for everyone. I know a lot of Asian-Americans who choose to be or because of other circumstances are not connected with their parents or their roots, but this is how it was for me, and this is why I feel so connected to Frank’s story. His journey to becoming a balanced Korean-American is a lot like my experience trying to balance being Filipino and American. We both connected with our parents and then wanted to know more about our culture.
I did not expect to love this as much as I did. I even ranted about my complaints to my cousins and Sandra until about 200 pages in. But as I read on, Frank’s story resonated with me more and more, and I found myself crying at midnight because it hit so close to home. I highly recommend giving Frankly in Love a shot, and it’s a must read for Asian-Americans trying to connect with their parents and bicultural identity. It’s a new favorite of the year and possibly of all time for me!
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I received an ARC via the publisher at ALA in exchange for an honest review.Quotes were taken from an unfinished proof copy and may not be the same in the finished work.