Johanna Hedva with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore — 'Your Love is Not Good'

Your Love Is Not Good stuffs queer explosive into the cracks between identity and aspiration, between desire and art, and revels in the raining debris.


Third Place Books is delighted to welcome author Johanna Hedva to Third Place Books! Hedva will be discussing their new novel, Your Love is Not Good, and will be joined in conversation by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, author of Freezer Door and the forthcoming collection Touching the Art.

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This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required in advance. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book!

"Your Love is Not Good will not answer your questions. It won't tell you what the right stance to take on identity is, what the best way to navigate being a working artist is. Instead, Hedva has crafted a meditation on seeing, being seen, and the absolute exhaustion of living in the space between them. Their prose curls in on itself like an oil-slicked rag, pulling you into the rabbit hole of creation. A triumph." —Lou Barcott, Third Place Books

"I absolutely melted into Your Love is Not Good. With its lean, disciplined prose and intellectual/artistic/erotic provocations, it is a novel demanding patient consideration while slyly, slowly seducing the reader with Hedva's electric vision." —Wes Minter, Third Place Books

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About Your Love is Not Good. . .

An artist of color becomes obsessed with a white model in a novel with the glamor of Clarice Lispector and the viscerality of Han Kang.

At an otherwise forgettable party in Los Angeles, a queer Korean American painter spots a woman who instantly controls the room: gorgeous and distant and utterly white, the center of everyone’s attention. Haunted into adulthood by her Korean father’s abandonment of his family, as well as the specter of her beguiling, abusive white mother, the painter finds herself caught in a perfect trap. She wants Hanne, or wants to be her, or to sully her, or destroy her, or consume her, or some confusion of all the above. Since she’s an artist, she will use art to get closer to Hanne, beginning a series of paintings with her new muse as model. As for Hanne, what does she want? Her whiteness seems sometimes as cruel as a new sheet of paper.

When the paintings of Hanne become a hit, resulting in the artist’s first sold-out show, she resolves to bring her new muse with her to Berlin, to continue their work, and her seduction. But, just when the painter is on the verge of her long sought-after breakthrough, a petition started by a Black performance artist begins making the rounds in the art community, calling for the boycott of major museums and art galleries for their imperialist and racist practices.

Torn between her desire to support the petition, to be a success, and to possess Hanne, the painter and her reality become more unstable and disorienting, unwilling to cut loose any one of her warring ambitions, yet unable to accommodate them all. Is it any wonder so many artists self-destruct so spectacularly? Is it perhaps just a bit exciting to think she could too?


Praise for Your Love is Not Good. . .

“Impassioned, wry, compassionate, and hell-raising, this novel illuminates its frangible but resilient world the way a painter uses color on canvas to illuminate the focal point of her vision—building layer after layer of meaning until the image appears as if it has always been there for us to see. A resplendent and fearless book. Must read.”
—Kirkus (starred review)

“Your Love Is Not Good is a whirlwind, and a mural, and a mirror—Hedva's prose is incisive and empathetic, wholly comedic and deeply poignant. This story about the life of our ideas, the trajectory of our dreams, and the burden of our loves is wildly moving and entirely original. Hedva deftly juggles questions of ambition and debt with what we owe others, and what we owe ourselves, resulting in a novel that's both honest and enrapturing. Your Love Is Not Good is a genuine blast.”
—Bryan Washington

“By turns funny, brutal, and (surprisingly) tender, Your Love is Not Good is a major achievement. Hedva’s prose—which is gusty and taut—conveys a thrumming, kaleidoscopically constructed narrative structure to produce for the reader an experience of something incredibly intimate, something profuse, raw, erotic and challenging. Your Love is Not Good contains revelations (both vibrating and appalling) about artists and practice, and about contemporary art worlds. An instant classic/must-read/ important addition to the (woefully scanty) genre of books by artists about art-life. A very moving read.”
—Harry Dodge

"A thin permeable line between love and hate, pain and pleasure, self-love, self-flagellation, and total narcissism. Hedva's characters show us the complexities of being (in)human(e) beings and push our faces into the mud, an antagonism inflicted unto ourselves as we bully, bruise, blur, and break our way into the waking world. Hedva's willingness to parse apart ‘love’ from ‘goodness’ is the honesty we're all here and have been waiting for.”
—Legacy Russell

Johanna Hedva is a Korean American writer, artist, and musician, who was raised in Los Angeles by a family of witches, and now lives in LA and Berlin. Hedva’s practice cooks magic, necromancy, and divination together with mystical states of fury and ecstasy, and political states of solidarity and disintegration. They are devoted to deviant forms of knowledge and to doom as a liberatory condition. There is always the body — its radical permeability, dependency, and consociation — but the task is how to eclipse it, how to nebulize it, and how to cope when this inevitably fails. Whether the form is novels, essays, theory, poetry, music, performance, AI, videogames, installation, sculpture, drawings, or trickery, ultimately Hedva’s work is different kinds of writing because it is different kinds of language embodied: it is words on a page, screaming in a room, dragging a hand through water.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the author, most recently, of The Freezer Door, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, one of Oprah Magazine’s Best LGBTQ Books of 2020, and a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. Her latest anthology, Between Certain Death and a Possible Future: Queer Writing on Growing Up with the AIDS Crisis, was named one of the “100 Most Influential Queer Books of All Time” by Bookriot. Her next book, Touching the Art, will be published by Soft Skull in November 2023. Sycamore lives in Seattle. (Photo credit: Dorothy Edwards)

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