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?
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.
“Hedva is consistently savvy and surprising.” —Publishers Weekly
“A gripping, tightly plotted novel characterized by a trenchant exploration of race, queer desire, and power dynamics in the art world” —Reed McConnell, Frieze
“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
“An emotional and artistic bildungsroman … filled with apt perceptions and accurate barbs.” —ArtReview
“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
“This precise page-turner of a tale about bad or nonexistent mothers, race, and the erotics of painting masterfully pins the art world to the buckram of its specimen tray, pointed sentence after sentence. Here everyone loses gorgeously, definitively—and lucky readers learn a lot about the game.” —Lucy Ives
“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
“It's more than all this, but here is something about labor, the capitalist inseams in Identity, as expressed in an international art market that careens its participants—or is it the art?—towards suicide. For those needing—by hook or by crook, by rope, knife, mirror, or by truck—to leave something, or the art world, or the debt-collision of whatever they're doing, or even the internet for the next 24 goddamned hours, Your Love Is Not Good is very worth your beautiful time.” —Caren Beilin
“Your Love Is Not Good is a dazzling tale of claustrophobia and neglect. Swinging deftly between savage realism, scathing social satire, and brutal erotic haze, Johanna Hedva moves from agony to alchemy in this meticulously layered portrait of intimate corruption. Bursting into the broken places between shame and self-creation, trauma and accountability, righteousness and complicity, Your Love Is Not Good cracks open the art world to exorcise the pain of belonging.” —Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
“Electric, pornographic, mischievous, and deeply funny. Your Love is Not Good is a parable of the artist who in search of beauty encounters something far more intoxicating: ruin. Burn your diaries, kill your darlings, and go toast your real friends— this is the summer beach read you’ll be talking about for the rest of the year.” —Lara Mimosa Montes
“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
Praise for Johanna Hedva
“It’s fucking brilliant. I’m in love. If there have to be novels, On Hell is what they should do.” —Anne Boyer
“Purchase or thrash: ‘genius.’ Relocate an ‘Ancient Greek text’ to ‘contemporary Los Angeles.’ Does a geographical cure excrete ghosts, ‘visions of strange bodies poised and moving,’ or does it produce a ‘deep, reverberating sound?’ Johanna Hedva’s Minerva begins in this place and we go there, which is to say a reader does. Or might: float/trust this process of alchemical, pelvic, infinite, sub-maternal, and ceramic change.” —Bhanu Kapil
“Reverberations of this book outlast everything else in our ears, ‘what felt like a skinned, feral cat breaching from my chest.’ Definitely Minerva, goddess of genius and poems! Celestial messenger Johanna Hedva gives up gold after the cult following of their book On Hell. A (god)dess-sized reconstruction of the world we only thought we knew! Welcome home, poets!” —CAConrad
“At some point while reading On Hell, I had the sensation that my heart had pushed through my chest, my brain had pushed through my skull, and my guts had pushed through my abdomen, and that I was, in solidarity with Hedva’s writing, wearing my insides on the outside of my body. Only writing this nakedly vulnerable could be this intensely embodied, and only writing this intensely embodied could be this insurrectionary.” —Brandon Shimoda