Bodega
Against the backdrop of the war on drugs and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, a Korean girl comes of age in her parents' bodega in the Queensbridge projects, offering a singular perspective on our nation of immigrants and the tensions pulsing in the margins where they live and work.In Su Hwang's rich lyrical and narrative poetics, the bodega and its surrounding neighborhoods are cast not as mere setting, but as an ecosystem of human interactions where a dollar passed from one stranger to another is an act of peaceful revolution, and desperate acts of violence are "the price / of doing business in the projects where we / were trapped inside human cages--binding us / in a strange circus where atoms of haves / and have-nots always forcefully collide." These poems also reveal stark contrasts in the domestic lives of immigrants, as the speaker's own family must navigate the many personal, cultural, and generational chasms that arise from having to assume a hyphenated identity--lending a voice to the traumatic toll invisibility, assimilation, and sacrifice take on so many pursuing the American Dream."We each suffer alone in / tandem," Hwang declares, but in Bodega, she has written an antidote to this solitary hurt--an incisive poetic debut that acknowledges and gives shape to anguish as much as it cherishes human life, suggesting frameworks for how we might collectively move forward with awareness and compassion.

Bodega Details

TitleBodega
Author
ReleaseOct 8th, 2019
PublisherMilkweed Editions
ISBN-139781571315243
Rating
GenrePoetry

Bodega Review

  • Rudy
    January 1, 1970
    This book was lovely!
  • Alison (Story-eyed Reviews)
    January 1, 1970
    I very much enjoyed Bodega by Su Hwang. This delightful and vivid collection of poems was fun and interesting to read, while serving as an authentic perspective into the immigrant experience.What Hwang excels at most, in my opinion, is the beautiful and descriptive voice she uses to immerse you into an environment. In poems like Corner Store Still Life, Projects NYC, 1989, and the titular poem Bodega, Hwang paints such a visceral and tangible picture that I felt as if I could close my eyes and I very much enjoyed Bodega by Su Hwang. This delightful and vivid collection of poems was fun and interesting to read, while serving as an authentic perspective into the immigrant experience.What Hwang excels at most, in my opinion, is the beautiful and descriptive voice she uses to immerse you into an environment. In poems like Corner Store Still Life, Projects NYC, 1989, and the titular poem Bodega, Hwang paints such a visceral and tangible picture that I felt as if I could close my eyes and hear the noises she described around me.In poems like Hopscotch and Latchkeys, Hwang delivers another form of transportation in that I felt transported back in time to my own childhood. Running to look responsible when your parents come home, playing outside and dreaming of fairy dust and towers, I felt my youth in these poems, colorful, vibrant, and beautiful.Occasionally some lines would feel wordy or I wouldn’t grasp the meaning of a few sentences, but overall Bodega was an excellent, creative debut. I would recommend Bodega to any of my friends who enjoy poetry.Received this DRC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Emily Pérez
    January 1, 1970
    In Su Hwang’s debut, Bodega, a young speaker comes of age among inscrutable adults by watching them navigate language, race, culture, and class. The bodega serves as backdrop; it also serves as a metaphor for the collection: a single site packed with necessities; a site where humans of all stripes intersect, revealing in their intersections both awful and affirming aspects of humanity. We learn early on that the speaker’s family of Korean immigrants works in a bodega in Queensbridge projects in In Su Hwang’s debut, Bodega, a young speaker comes of age among inscrutable adults by watching them navigate language, race, culture, and class. The bodega serves as backdrop; it also serves as a metaphor for the collection: a single site packed with necessities; a site where humans of all stripes intersect, revealing in their intersections both awful and affirming aspects of humanity. We learn early on that the speaker’s family of Korean immigrants works in a bodega in Queensbridge projects in the late 1980s, but the book opens with “Instant Scratch Off,” a poem set in a bodega run by a Puerto Rican cashier. The “transistor radio / with foil-tipped antennae sputters the Yankee / doubleheader” and the patter of the announcer (“swwwwwwwing and miss!”) sets the pace for the comfortable action in the store, where Nigerian and Pakistani customers select cat food and scratch cards for purchase. Men from three nations, none of them Korea, come together, and this sets the stage for Hwang’s project. Not only is Hwang interested in the Korea-to-America experience, but she wishes to investigate clashes and commonalities among immigrants....complete review here: https://rhinopoetry.org/reviews/bodeg...
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  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    A terrific debut collection!JesusWhen my mother cries, Hey Zeus!it cues him to resume sweeping. I gigglepicturing the Greek god of marble, muscle & thunder. His eyes remain lowered when I ask where he was born, where he calls home, as my legs swing below the counter—the store totally free of customers. He bridles, suddenly in my crosshairs: visible. Mere sliver of a man. Tells me in broken English that he walked a long way, across many borders(I’m just a child, couldn’t possibly fathom). He A terrific debut collection!JesusWhen my mother cries, Hey Zeus!it cues him to resume sweeping. I gigglepicturing the Greek god of marble, muscle & thunder. His eyes remain lowered when I ask where he was born, where he calls home, as my legs swing below the counter—the store totally free of customers. He bridles, suddenly in my crosshairs: visible. Mere sliver of a man. Tells me in broken English that he walked a long way, across many borders(I’m just a child, couldn’t possibly fathom). He misses his mother—smuggled in clutching her picture. It’s been a dozen years but knows she is still alive from signed trails of Western Union receipts. He sends her everything, works two other menial jobs, lives with several migrant men in Harlem. Watching him sweep, I peer over atmy mother whose shoulders are hunched stocking shelf after shelf—wasting away within a five-foot radius, but our distance seems to span an ocean. I never ask any real questions, she never tells me more than I need to know—having built impenetrablebarriers. Inadvertently locked in a vow of silence, there is no arguing, we are all rotten to each other.
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  • Nicolette
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning. It's going to earn a purchase and a place on the shelf. Highlighting some particularly stark and vivid poems:"Graveyard Shift""Latchkeys" (oof, familiar)"Flushing Queens""Jesus""Store Credit:"Sestina of Koreatown Burning""Cancer"But they're all fantastic.
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