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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Review: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong @OneWorldLit @cathyparkhong

Minor Feelings 
by Cathy Park Hong


Publisher: One World
Publish Date: February 25, 2020
224 Pages
Genre: Nonfiction

A ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged exploration of the psychological condition of being Asian American, by an award-winning poet and essayist

Asian Americans inhabit a purgatorial status: neither white enough nor black enough, unmentioned in most conversations about racial identity. In the popular imagination, Asian Americans are all high-achieving professionals. But in reality, this is the most economically divided group in the country, a tenuous alliance of people with roots from South Asia to East Asia to the Pacific Islands, from tech millionaires to service industry laborers. How do we speak honestly about the Asian American condition—if such a thing exists?

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively confronts this thorny subject, blending memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of "minor feelings." As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these "minor feelings" occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you're told about your own racial identity.

With sly humor and a poet's searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This intimate and devastating book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and artmaking, and to family and female friendship. A radically honest work of art, Minor Feelings forms a portrait of one Asian American psyche—and of a writer's search to both uncover and speak the truth.

My Review:

Wow. All the things I felt growing up put into a book and hearing my voice is at once disturbing and freeing at the same time. These essays at once give you history along with how Asian Americans feel in this world. Not white. Not black. Denied by both. Accepted by none.

"Asians lack presence. Asians take up apologetic space."

I have SO many things I want to say here and there are SO MANY quotes within this book. I remember in a literature class in college, we were reading a book that had an Asian person as one of the characters and it touched on the tradition of taking off your shoes at the entry of the house. I remember one person saying Asians must be lazy and not wanting to clean and that's why they make people take off their shoes. Um, what? There will never be a house cleaner than my mom or my aunt's. I guarantee you that.

"Racial self hatred is seeing yourself the way whites see you, which turns you into your own worst enemy."

I went on a date in high school with a white guy and I remember him telling me he didn't believe in interracial relationships. I stood, dumbfounded because I'm a product of such relationship. But he said it wasn't the same because even though my mother is Korean, she still has white skin. No, she doesn't. Obviously we didn't go on another date but I was stunned. There is truth that is touched on within the book about how Asians are perceived as the "next white". No, we most definitely are not. While we are neither white, nor black, we are almost invisible at times - until it suits some other race's platform for us to be around.

"Patiently educating a clueless white person about race is draining. It takes all your powers of persuasion. Because it's more than a chat about race. It's ontological. It's like explaining to a person why you exist, or why you feel pain, or why your reality is distinct from their reality. Except it's even trickier than that. Because the person has all of western history, politics, literature and mass culture on their side, proving you don't exist."

As being only half Korean, I dealt with not being able to fit in anywhere. In the US, I'm just another Asian girl.. in Korea, I'm that American with the bug bites all over my face (freckles). My cousin being full Korean had her own issues to deal with and we've discussed how our experiences were different because of that.

I could go on an on and on but really, if you're Asian American, read this and feel seen. If you're not, read this and understand a bit please. 


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