Minor Feelings
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.

Minor Feelings Details

TitleMinor Feelings
Author
ReleaseFeb 25th, 2020
PublisherOne World
ISBN-139781984820365
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Writing, Essays, Autobiography, Memoir, Race

Minor Feelings Review

  • Nursebookie
    January 1, 1970
    When I heard about this book and received an Advanced Readers' Copy, I was drawn to the title and the author. I read it in a span of a week, because I wanted to thoroughly absorb, understand and really read Cathy Park Hong's words in this collection of incredibly powerful and raw essays that spoke to me as an Asian American woman. I felt that for once, someone put into words what I have felt all along but I never really had the courage to speak out loud or acknowledge, and Hong explains why, When I heard about this book and received an Advanced Readers' Copy, I was drawn to the title and the author. I read it in a span of a week, because I wanted to thoroughly absorb, understand and really read Cathy Park Hong's words in this collection of incredibly powerful and raw essays that spoke to me as an Asian American woman. I felt that for once, someone put into words what I have felt all along but I never really had the courage to speak out loud or acknowledge, and Hong explains why, beautifully in this book.Some of the things that struck me in her book is Hong's mention of the "new racial awareness mediator" when you have to explain your race to someone, and that "Most Americans know nothing about Asian Americans. They think Chinese is synecdoche for Asians same way as Kleenex is for tissues". I definitely related to this when I am constantly explaining myself and my heritage to someone. The essays come well researched as well and I loved learning about the history of our country's Manifest Destiny where Hong mentions on how three Chinese laborers died for every two miles of track for the transcontinental railroad, and at the completion of the railroad, not one photo was taken of a Chinese man in the celebratory photos. Hong explores these minor feelings which she describes are the range of emotions mostly negative from everyday feelings of being slighted with racial undertones that others may conjure your own feelings as though made up or being overly sensitive. Hong's mention of the 1992 LA Riots really resonated with me as I personally experienced this first hand being a witness to how my parents were so affected by this incident - having to come back to our business after looters have destroyed our family business. I didn't understand what was happening then but Hong was able to explain it well in the book.I cannot recommend this book enough. Hong wrote this book with courage and all her heart - exposing her feelings with honesty and wit. Her writing is incredible and this is a true masterpiece. A dissertation to the Asian American experience. Required reading and a must read! Brava! A standing ovation!
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  • Jaclyn
    January 1, 1970
    I have never felt so seen, have never been able to put into words—much less effectively emote to others—feelings such as being gaslighted since childhood of my own experiences of racism as an Asian American and being made to feel like they’re not worthy of validation. I don’t think it was until I started working for an AAPI advocacy organization that I truly started my journey toward racial consciousness, precisely because of this phenomenon Hong calls “minor feelings”. There are so many moments I have never felt so seen, have never been able to put into words—much less effectively emote to others—feelings such as being gaslighted since childhood of my own experiences of racism as an Asian American and being made to feel like they’re not worthy of validation. I don’t think it was until I started working for an AAPI advocacy organization that I truly started my journey toward racial consciousness, precisely because of this phenomenon Hong calls “minor feelings”. There are so many moments in the book where I had never seen a particular emotional experience written down and speaking to me before: from watching your parents as a child being humiliated by white adults because of their struggles with English to the ways in which a post-2016 election world has triggered the trauma of racial bullying during childhood, or rather “the stress of its anticipation”. And yet it’s so much more complex than that. Throughout the whole book I kept taking photos of the pages as I read so that I could come back to those passages whenever. As a result my camera roll is just a bunch of snapshots of text. There are certain chapters where I felt like it veered from the main thesis of the book (though still fantastic and compelling and gripping stories), and yet, I think Cathy Park Hong was doing what she mentioned is what writers should strive to do: show, not tell. These stories showed you what being invisibilized and fighting the forces that convince you you are invisible FEELS like. And it was effective. The writing was so beautiful and flowy, but punchy, not the kind where it is so flowery that it was hard to read. She could pack so much gut and feeling in so few words (she is after all a poet).I can see how this book may not resonate as strongly with all Asian Americans, particularly those who aren’t East Asian, women, cisgender, or 1.5/second generation, and people who have other overlapping and intersecting identities that may make the idea of “minor feelings” less comprehensive or complex enough in holistically capturing their experiences. But Hong does address this, and I think more than anything she meant it as a starting point in thinking about our Asian American identity, and not an end all be all concept. Thank you Goodreads for this advanced readers copy! I am still shocked that of the dozens of books for which I have entered Goodreads giveaways, the one I finally won is the book I feel like I have waited my whole life for.
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  • Bkwmlee
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsUpon finishing Cathy Park Hong’s book of essays entitled Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning , I have to admit that I feel a bit conflicted. As an Asian American woman who is close in age to Hong and also grew up in the Los Angeles area like she did, there were many experiences she described in her essays that were absolutely familiar to me – for example, struggling with identity and belonging, being discriminated against due to my race, feeling like I oftentimes have to 3.5 starsUpon finishing Cathy Park Hong’s book of essays entitled Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning , I have to admit that I feel a bit conflicted. As an Asian American woman who is close in age to Hong and also grew up in the Los Angeles area like she did, there were many experiences she described in her essays that were absolutely familiar to me – for example, struggling with identity and belonging, being discriminated against due to my race, feeling like I oftentimes have to explain my heritage to people due to preconceived biases stemming from ignorance – the list goes on and on. Because of these shared experiences, I am able to understand wholeheartedly where Hong is coming from in her essays, even though culturally, we are from completely different backgrounds (Hong is Korean American, I’m Chinese American). Overall, I found Hong’s essay collection to be an insightful read and very different from a lot of what is typically written about identity and race, especially from an Asian American perspective. The basic premise that binds all of Hong’s essays together is the concept of “minor feelings,” which Hong describes as “the racialized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic, built from the sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one’s perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed.” In essence, it is the recognition that the negative emotions many Asian Americans (and other minority groups) have to deal with on a daily basis – feelings of shame, self-doubt, paranoia, suspicion, melancholy, etc. – can be traced back to America’s history of imperialism and colonization of Asian nations, a history that resulted in the creation of an inherently racist capitalistic system that will constantly be in conflict with the reality of our racial identity. Amongst other things, Hong writes about the “weight of indebtedness” that is a constant presence in her life as well as the lives of most immigrants regardless of background, with the context of this “indebtedness” correlating to a “gratitude” of sorts for being able to make a life for ourselves in this country. All of Hong’s essays are infused with a raw honesty that is at the same time perceptive and intelligent, but also easy to grasp and understand. With all that said however, going back to why I felt conflicted after reading this book -- while there is definitely much truth to what Hong wrote and several aspects of it did actually resonate with me, there was also a large portion that I felt strayed too far from my own personal reality. I’m not an activist and in fact, most of the time, I try to steer as clear away from politics as I possibly can. I also don’t spend every waking moment of my life thinking about race, identity, and/or how I fit into this world as an Asian American – not because I don’t care or that I’m okay with being complacent about the racial circumstances in our society or whatnot – but rather, the practical realities of my life don’t afford me the “luxury” of constantly dwelling on identity politics and race. Don’t get me wrong though – this doesn’t mean that if I see an injustice occurring, that I stand idly by instead of speaking up and fighting…if the circumstances warrant it, I will do what is necessary and also within my power to do. But by the same token, it would also be “unjust” in my opinion to judge those who choose not to fight, who choose not to rock the boat, who choose the path of least resistant because they are content with living an ordinary, peaceful existence, even if it means being largely invisible and/or complacent from an identity perspective. Forcing oneself to see everything through the lens of race and identity is exhausting and for me personally, that has never been how I want to go about my life. At the end of the day, the most important thing, for me at least, is respecting each other’s viewpoints and choices, especially if they are different from our own. While my viewpoint may differ from Hong’s in many areas, I respect the fact that these essays reflect her personal thoughts and experiences and she doesn’t try to impose those onto us as readers. I also appreciate Hong’s unflinching honesty as well as her willingness to so candidly voice her feelings. Regardless, we definitely need more books like this one, where we get to hear different voices tell their stories – it takes a lot of courage to do so and that alone is already deserving of respect! Definitely a recommended read, though of course with the understanding that this is Hong’s personal perspective as an Asian American living in the United States and by no means does it represent all Asian Americans.Received ARC from One World (Random House) via NetGalley.
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  • Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)
    January 1, 1970
    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 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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  • Sachi Argabright
    January 1, 1970
    MINOR FEELINGS is an extremely honest and original collection of essays focused on the Asian American experience. By blending history and cultural criticism with stories from her own past, this book highlights the complexities of being Asian in America. Many don’t realize that the Asian American demographic is so wide, and many times the group is reduced to and/or misidentified as Chinese or Japanese. Even within groups such as Southeast Asian, South Asian, East Asian, and Pacific Islander there MINOR FEELINGS is an extremely honest and original collection of essays focused on the Asian American experience. By blending history and cultural criticism with stories from her own past, this book highlights the complexities of being Asian in America. Many don’t realize that the Asian American demographic is so wide, and many times the group is reduced to and/or misidentified as Chinese or Japanese. Even within groups such as Southeast Asian, South Asian, East Asian, and Pacific Islander there are many ethnicities. This book explores many issues including income disparities within the Asian American community, the model minority myth, representation in culture and media, racial self hatred, white tears, slavery, immigration bans, and racial purgatory.I love taking notes when I read books, especially nonfiction works, and I took SO many notes as I was reading this book. I’ve never read anything that dives so deep on the Asian American experience, and I’m glad a book like this has FINALLY been published. This book is harsh, but it needs to be to dispel the illusion of the model minority image Asian Americans have. This book really punches you in the gut with an opening essay that sets the tone for the rest of the book, and I loved every single word. While I wish there were more comments about biracial or mixed race Asian Americans, I was still able to identify with many issues. For example, Hong notes that Asians are often caught in racial purgatory because they’re not black or white, and I have often felt that way as a biracial individual but in a different way (not feeling white or Asian enough). I really enjoyed this collection, and I feel like this would be a great discussion piece for classes studying Asian American history and experiences. Great for readers who want to learn more about the Asian American experience, or for Asian Americans who want to see themselves represented on the page.[ I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review]
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  • Auderoy Lin
    January 1, 1970
    QUOTES:There was no reason for me to be depressed. But anytime I was happy, the fear of an awful catastrophe would follow, so I made myself feel awful to preempt the catastrophe from hitting.For as long as I could remember, I have struggled to prove myself into existence.In the popular imagination, Asian Americans inhabit a vague purgatorial status: not white enough nor black enough; distrusted by African Americans, ignored by whites, unless we're being used by whites to keep the black man down. QUOTES:There was no reason for me to be depressed. But anytime I was happy, the fear of an awful catastrophe would follow, so I made myself feel awful to preempt the catastrophe from hitting.For as long as I could remember, I have struggled to prove myself into existence.In the popular imagination, Asian Americans inhabit a vague purgatorial status: not white enough nor black enough; distrusted by African Americans, ignored by whites, unless we're being used by whites to keep the black man down.Racial self-hatred is seeing yourself the way the whites see you, which turns you into your own worst enemy.I was so privileged I was acquiring the most useless graduate degree imaginable.Back then, only select professionals from Asia were granted visas to the United States: doctors, engineers, and mechanics. This screening process, by the way, is how the whole model minority quackery began: the US government only allowed the most educated and highly trained Asians in and then took all the credit for their success. See! Anyone can live the American Dream! they'd say about a doctor who came into the country already a doctor.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 that you don't exist.Most Americans know nothing about Asian Americans. They think Chinese is synecdoche for Asians the way Kleenex is for tissues.What if my cannibalizing ego is not a racial phenomenon but my own damn problem?Everyone around me behaved badly, but somehow I was the biggest problem.The privilege of assimilation is that you are left alone. But assimilation must not be mistaken for power, because once you have acquired power, you are exposed, and your model minority qualifications that helped you in the past can be used against you, since you are no longer invisible.But because we know we won't be believed, we don't quite believe it ourselves. So we blame ourselves for being too outspoken or too proud or too ambitious.My ego is in free fall while my superego is boundless, railing that my existence is not enough, never enough, so I become compulsive in my efforts to do better, be better, blindly following this country's gospel of self-interest, proving my individual worth by expanding my net worth, until I vanish.Writers of color had to behave better in their poetry and in person; they had to always act gracious and grateful so that white people would be comfortable enough to sympathize with their racialized experiences.The ethnic literary project has always been a humanist project in which nonwhite writers must prove they are human beings who feel pain. Will there be a future where I, on the page, am simply I, on the page, and not I, proxy for a whole ethnicity, imploring you to believe we are human beings who feel pain?Minor feelings: the racialized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic, built from the sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one's perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed.Minor feelings occur when American optimism is enforced upon you, which contradicts your own racialized reality, thereby creating a static of cognitive dissonance. You are told, "Things are so much better," while you think, Things are the same. You are told, "Asian Americans are so successful," while you feel like a failure. This optimism sets up false expectations that increase these feelings of dysphoria.Our feelings are overreactions because our lived experiences of structural inequity are not commensurate with their deluded reality.We put our minor feelings aside to protect white feelings.Reading to my daughter, I see my own youth drifting away while hers attaches firmly to this country. I am not passing down happy memories of my own so much as I am staging happy memories for her. My parents did the same for me, but their idea of providing was vastly more fundamental: food, shelter, school.Innocence is both a privilege and a cognitive handicap, a sheltered unknowingness that, once protracted into adulthood, hardens into entitlement.One characteristic of racism is that children are treated like adults and adults are treated like children.But racial trauma is not a competitive sport. The problem is not that my childhood was exceptionally traumatic but that it was in fact rather typical.What's harder to report is not the incident itself but the stress of its anticipation. The white reign of terror can be invisible and cumulative, chipping away at one's worth until there's nothing left but self-loathing.Of course, "white tears" does not refer to all pain but to the particular emotional fragility a white person experiences when they find racial stress so intolerable they become hypersensitive and defensive, focusing the stress back to their own bruised ego....I could live only for myself, for my immediate family, following the expectations of my parents, whose survivor instincts align with this country's neoliberal ethos, which is to get ahead at the expense of anyone else while burying the shame that binds us.For to be aware of history, they would be forced to be held accountable, and rather than face that shame, they'd rather, by any means necessary, maintain their innocence.As a poet, I have always treated English as a weapon in a power struggle, wielding it against those who are more powerful than me. But I falter when using English as an expression of love. I've always been so protective of making sure that my family's inside sounds didn't leak outside that I don't know how to allow the outside in. I was raised by a kind of love that was so inextricable from pain that I fear that once I air that love, it will oxidize to betrayal, as if I'm turning English against my family.But a side effect of this justified rage has been a "stay in your lane" politics in which artists and writers are asked to speak only from their personal ethnic experiences. Such a politics not only assumes racial identity is pure--while ignoring the messy lived realities in which racial groups overlap--but reduces racial identity to intellectual property... The soul of innovation thrives on cross-cultural inspiration. If we are restricted to our lanes, culture will die.The curse of anyone nonwhite is that you are so busy arguing what you're not that you never arrive at what you are.This was the most Korean trait about her, her intense desire to die and survive at the same time, drives that didn't cancel each other out but stood in confluence.The problem with silence is that it can't speak up and say why it's silent. And so silence collects, becomes amplified, takes on a life outside our intentions, in that silence can get misread as indifference, or avoidance, or even shame, and eventually this silence passes over into forgetting.I don't want to care that no one else cares because I don't want to be left stranded in my rage.Capitalism as retribution for racism. But isn't that how whiteness recruits us? Whether it's through retribution or indebtedness, who are we when we become better than them in a system that destroyed us?If the indebted Asian immigrant thinks they owe their life to America, the child thinks they owe their livelihood to their parents for their suffering. The indebted Asian American is therefore the ideal neoliberal subject.Theresa Hak Kyung Cha writes, "Arrest the machine that purports to employ democracy but rather causes the successive refraction of her." The most damaging legacy of the West has been its power to decide who our enemies are, turning us not only against our own people, like North and South Korea, but turning me against myself.At what cost do I have this life?I'd rather be indebted than be the kind of white man who thinks the world owes him, because to live an ethical life is to be held accountable to history.Whiteness has already recruited us to become their junior partners in genocidal wars; conscripted us to be antiblack and colorist; to work for, and even head, corporations that scythe off immigrant jobs like heads of wheat.Unless we are read as Muslim or trans, Asian Americans are fortunate not to live under hard surveillance, but we live under a softer panopticon, so subtle that it's internalized, in that we monitor ourselves, which characterizes our conditional existence. Even if we've been here for four generations, our status here remains conditional; belonging is always promised and just out of reach so that we behave, whether it's the insatiable acquisition of material belongings or belonging as a peace of mind where we are absorbed into mainstream society. If the Asian American consciousness must be emancipated, we must free ourselves of our conditional existence.
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  • Sonya
    January 1, 1970
    This book is groundbreaking, brilliant - when was the last time I read a creative nonfiction book about Asian America? Yeah, probably never. What a gift this is!Claudia Rankine described Minor Feelings as “penetrating” and that feels like the perfect word. Minor Feelings is cultural criticism, it’s history, it’s personal, but I also think Hong’s background in poetry shines through, and her words are truly beautifully, precisely, and incisively curated. As an Asian American, the clear-eyed truths This book is groundbreaking, brilliant - when was the last time I read a creative nonfiction book about Asian America? Yeah, probably never. What a gift this is!Claudia Rankine described Minor Feelings as “penetrating” and that feels like the perfect word. Minor Feelings is cultural criticism, it’s history, it’s personal, but I also think Hong’s background in poetry shines through, and her words are truly beautifully, precisely, and incisively curated. As an Asian American, the clear-eyed truths of Hong’s work is simultaneously validating and uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because she’s hit the nail on the head with what she observes and interrogates about a community I am part of yet have complicated feelings towards.Hong packs so much into this book and my friends, you’ll just have to read it all for yourself. But here are some my favorite parts. She writes about how society only wants ethnic narratives that fit their mold, that emphasize survival and growth, that situate trauma far away and lets the reader off the hook. I absolutely loved the chapter ‘bad english’ where she grapples with how to make visible the “imperial power sewn into the language” as a writer. Hong ponders what the Asian American condition really is, but also whether one can even write about the Asian American condition — “the curse of anyone nonwhite is that you are so busy arguing what you’re not that you never arrive at what you are.”I feel unsatisfied with my summary of this book because it’s simply the tip of the iceberg of Hong’s brilliance. What I love most about Hong’s book is that she is catering to no one. To read this takes work. But if we are to think deeply and with nuance about Asian America and race in America, of course it takes work.(Cw: rape, murder)(Thank you One World for the advance copy, all opinions my own!)
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  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley for this e-ARC, all opinions are my own.Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong is a collection of essays on race not from the binary of black and white, but through the experiences of what she deftly points out is a difficult label - Asian American. The first few essays feature memoir and cultural critique that it personal and a profound look at how white supremacy ensures that no matter how hard someone strives for the power and privilege that whiteness gifts, they will continue Thanks to NetGalley for this e-ARC, all opinions are my own.Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong is a collection of essays on race not from the binary of black and white, but through the experiences of what she deftly points out is a difficult label - Asian American. The first few essays feature memoir and cultural critique that it personal and a profound look at how white supremacy ensures that no matter how hard someone strives for the power and privilege that whiteness gifts, they will continue to be systematically and institutionally denied - through microagressions, representation on screen, and in pursuit of art. Hong's story of female friendship is one of the best portrayals that I have seen anywhere, and I loved the snippets of conversations that she includes to show how her friendship continues to influence her work even as we read it in this moment. There is a lot to love in this work and much like Ocean Vuong's "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous," this book will lead me to an extensive collection of poetry that I had not previously known about.There are a few areas where I struggled with this quick read. The first is that Hong uses a lot of quotes throughout her essays, which support her ideas and give voice to the voices before her - but make me feel like I'm getting more of a collated set of references rather than a singular exploration. She also has a running theme of talking about the English language and her relationship to it that is highlighted by a few poetry passages, but it doesn't come through in the writing of the essays themselves. Lastly, I struggled with the chapters that were about art, since I didn't understand many of the references (there is a void in my knowledge when it comes to studio art of almost any kind). That being said, the stories that she tells still have themes that are moving and beg you to dig deeper. This reminded me a lot of "My Time Among the Whites" by Jennine Capo Crucet in it's struggle to better define our racial landscape and the impact that shifting modes of visibility/invisibility have on the experience of people of color depending on the context they are in.
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  • Allison
    January 1, 1970
    Outstanding essay collection! I love it when poets write prose - and I've never read Cathy Park Hong's work before, so I was sufficiently blown away. Hong writes about the challenges of writing about an Asian American identity, Asian Americans as both oppressed & oppressors. For her meditations on race, my favorite essay was on her friendships during her college days and coming-of-age as an artist/poet. This is one of those books that made me reflect on how I'm never going to be able to Outstanding essay collection! I love it when poets write prose - and I've never read Cathy Park Hong's work before, so I was sufficiently blown away. Hong writes about the challenges of writing about an Asian American identity, Asian Americans as both oppressed & oppressors. For her meditations on race, my favorite essay was on her friendships during her college days and coming-of-age as an artist/poet. This is one of those books that made me reflect on how I'm never going to be able to review anything without coming at it from a white gaze, and I highly recommend reading it. Thanks to OneWorld for the advanced copy - all thoughts my own, out 2/25.
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  • Nicholas
    January 1, 1970
    I am obsessed with this book. This book is Mariah Carey singing “Why you so obsessed with me?” and I'm whoever that song is written about (rumor is it’s about Eminem). Minor Feelings is a thought-provoking, insightful, smart collection of essays that delve into Asian American history, identity and psychology. But rather than rehashing and reexamining the same stereotypes and issues or throwing up a trendy #RepresentationMatters, Cathy Park Hong gives us an honest examination and refreshing I am obsessed with this book. This book is Mariah Carey singing “Why you so obsessed with me?” and I'm whoever that song is written about (rumor is it’s about Eminem). Minor Feelings is a thought-provoking, insightful, smart collection of essays that delve into Asian American history, identity and psychology. But rather than rehashing and reexamining the same stereotypes and issues or throwing up a trendy #RepresentationMatters, Cathy Park Hong gives us an honest examination and refreshing perspective of Asian American issues. ⁣ ⁣And she does this without being didactic—her essays are personal and she gets her point across through storytelling instead of just argument. This collection had so many pearl-clutching-light-bulb moments for me. She puts into words so many things I feel as an Asian American person but never knew how to articulate. She also introduced me to new ideas to ponder, and histories, people and legacies to remember. ⁣⁣AND this was the first book I’ve ever vandalized with brightly-colored tabs. So much in this book felt important to me—I had to remember it all! Adding this to my favorites for sure. ⁣ ⁣Thank you One World for this ARC!
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  • USOM
    January 1, 1970
    (Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) I don't normally read non-fiction, but when I saw the title of this book, I knew I had to check it out. Minor Feelings is a thought provoking series of essays tackling elements of the Asian American experience. I'm not actually sure where to start this review. Minor Feelings had passages that made me pause. As a Chinese American there were similarities and differences to my (Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) I don't normally read non-fiction, but when I saw the title of this book, I knew I had to check it out. Minor Feelings is a thought provoking series of essays tackling elements of the Asian American experience. I'm not actually sure where to start this review. Minor Feelings had passages that made me pause. As a Chinese American there were similarities and differences to my experiences and Hong's. Not only did Minor Feelings make me examine some of my own memories, but see Hong's perspective. As an adoptee, I am recommending this to my fellow family members because of the way Hong is able to succinctly phrase things that have been swirling around my own mind. These essays are easy to digest while also having an academic edge to them.full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not sure that the title and blurb of Minor Feelings give a completely accurate impression of what the book is about - in short, I can see someone picking this up expecting a meditation on the Korean American immigrant 'experience', and instead, encountering a series of essays that are much more concerned with making art while happening to be Korean American. Indeed, part of Hong's achievement here is to demonstrate the deadness of familiar questions such as 'Can white people write characters I'm not sure that the title and blurb of Minor Feelings give a completely accurate impression of what the book is about - in short, I can see someone picking this up expecting a meditation on the Korean American immigrant 'experience', and instead, encountering a series of essays that are much more concerned with making art while happening to be Korean American. Indeed, part of Hong's achievement here is to demonstrate the deadness of familiar questions such as 'Can white people write characters of colour?' and to say much more interesting things about writing from your own and from others' experiences, in conversation with other female Asian artists. For example, she writes:'Rather than "speaking about" a culture outside your experience, the filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha suggests we "speak nearby". In an interview for Artforum, Trinh says: "When you decide to speak nearby, rather than speak about, the first thing you need to do is to acknowledge the possible gap between you and the who populate your film... You can only speak nearby, in proximity... which requires that you deliberately suspend meaning... This allows the other person to come in and fill that space as they wish."'Hong uses Trinh's insights to try and turn the conversation away from the inevitable focus upon white writers writing 'outside their lane', arguing: 'I am only capable of "speaking nearby" the Asian American condition... I can't stretch myself across it.' (I found Jeannette Ng's essay, 'On Identity, Performing Marginalisations and the Limitations of #OwnVoices' interesting in this context, reflecting some of Hong's concerns about the power of the 'single story', or what happens when only immigrant narratives palatable to white audiences are told and retold).Minor Feelings wrestles with the question of how artists should and can use their own experience, especially female artists of colour who risk being totally defined by it; what Nesrine Malik has called always writing 'as a'. One of Hong's closest friends as a young artist, Erin, insists on keeping some tragic events in her own past completely private: 'If you reveal anything, they collapse your art with your life - and I don't want my autobiography hijacking my art. Maybe back then, my loss was a deep part of me but I have worked really hard to separate my work and my identity from that loss.' In another essay, Hong further interrogates these ideas through an exploration of the life and work of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, an artist and poet who worked in America but who was originally from South Korea, and who was raped and murdered at the age of thirty-one in 1982. Cha's Dictee has become 'a seminal book in Asian American literature... taught widely in universities', but, Hong found, scholars are reluctant to talk about Cha's death or to read her book as autobiographical because they feel this context devalues her art. 'But where does the silence that neglects her end and where does the silence that respects her begin?' Hong asks.Because I'm fascinated by writing about art-making, I loved the turn that Minor Feelings took after the first couple of essays, which were equally strongly written but made points that were relatively more familiar to me (the denial of 'innocence' to children of colour; the 'underachievement' of black children in formal education in the US; the awkward position of Asian Americans, who are conceptualised as a 'model minority', privileged at the expense of African Americans, but who are also subject to racist stereotypes of passivity and authoritarianism, and told to "go home"). Hong is especially good at placing her work in dialogue with a longer tradition of female Asian American writing about art and emphasising that this is completely natural, remembering her good fortune in being college-educated in the US in the mid to late nineties: 'Of course I read Theresa Hak Kyung Cha alongside William Carlos Williams in poetry class. I didn't study the performances of Guillermo Gómez-Peña because I needed a sample of the "Chicano experience" like a vitamin supplement. I studied these writers and artists because they were the most interesting thinkers'.Therefore, Minor Feelings itself becomes a subtle rebuke to those who read it looking for a certain kind of book, one that will somehow illuminate the Korean-American or, even more ridiculous, the Asian-American 'experience'. As Hong argues, this can't be done. But this brilliantly intelligent collection of essays is an important intervention in ongoing debates about race, identity and art.I received a free proof copy of this essay collection from the publisher for review.
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  • Sophia
    January 1, 1970
    ‘minor feelings: the radicalized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic, built from the sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one’s perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed.’this book blew me away with its perceptiveness and honesty. there was so much in here that i’ve felt my entire life but never had the language to express. but not only that, so much intention and research went into this book. i learned a lot ‘minor feelings: the radicalized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic, built from the sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one’s perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed.’this book blew me away with its perceptiveness and honesty. there was so much in here that i’ve felt my entire life but never had the language to express. but not only that, so much intention and research went into this book. i learned a lot about the history of being asian in america; it’s always a quiet punch to the gut learning about the things that were left out of our history books.you can tell there were a lot of things Hong (intentionally) left out of this book, like her relationship with her mother, which she touched on briefly. i hope we’ll see more of this author in the non-fiction world if she chooses to share. her words have been so vital.‘minor feelings are not generated from major change but from lack of change, in particular, structural racial and economic change.’[out 2/25. ty to one world for the advanced copy!]
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  • The Artisan Geek
    January 1, 1970
    28/2/20Yet another amazing find on my book scavenging hunt last week!! Very happy with this one!! :DYou can find me onYoutube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
  • John
    January 1, 1970
    "The Rise of white nationalism has led to many nonwhites defending their identities with rage and pride... ...But a side effect of this justified rage has been a "stay in your lane" politics in which artists and writers are asked to speak only from their personal ethnic experiences. Such a politics not only assumes racial identity is pure -- while ignoring the messy lived realities in which racial groups overlap--but reduces racial identity to intellectual property...."The soul of innovation "The Rise of white nationalism has led to many nonwhites defending their identities with rage and pride... ...But a side effect of this justified rage has been a "stay in your lane" politics in which artists and writers are asked to speak only from their personal ethnic experiences. Such a politics not only assumes racial identity is pure -- while ignoring the messy lived realities in which racial groups overlap--but reduces racial identity to intellectual property...."The soul of innovation thrives on cross-cultural inspiration. If we are restricted to our lanes, culture will die."I absolutely loved this book. I learned so much reading these fantastic essays. Cathy Park Hong's Minor Feelings expanded my mind and my understanding of the Asian American experience, of history and language, art and race relations.The essay "Portrait of an Artist" about the art and death of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha was truly heart breaking.I received an ARC from the publisher through #NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Reading this book was such an experience that to write only about the book itself and not what it has done to me seems wrong. So, I fear, this may get a little personal.To begin simply, although we have our marked differences, the way Hong and her subjects resonated with me was uncanny. From studying writing and art at a college in Ohio, navigating friendship through mental illness, being drawn to writers and artists such as Hito Steryl, Ocean Vuong, Emily Jungmin Yoon, Jos Charles, and most Reading this book was such an experience that to write only about the book itself and not what it has done to me seems wrong. So, I fear, this may get a little personal.To begin simply, although we have our marked differences, the way Hong and her subjects resonated with me was uncanny. From studying writing and art at a college in Ohio, navigating friendship through mental illness, being drawn to writers and artists such as Hito Steryl, Ocean Vuong, Emily Jungmin Yoon, Jos Charles, and most importantly to me and the book, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, MINOR FEELINGS seems to draw references directly from things that I have known or have loved. I know that these things are not exclusive to me, but to read a book that builds itself around a base of knowledge that I already have was pretty incredible. It made me feel intelligent and credible, banishing the learned instinct of wariness that can accompany reading an identity text when you are of the addressed identity -- how will this work challenge my own ideas of myself?I'm not saying I wasn't challenged or that I agreed with everything Hong wrote, because that wouldn't be true. We have different views on our own Korean-ness, and I would be alarmed if they were the same -- in fact, I was relieved to read counterpoints to my own opinions. Another relief I experienced while reading was the way that MINOR FEELINGS resists the idea of "representation," a well-known literary buzzword that does not appear, not even as an idea, in the book. This desire to be represented has become largely derivative and disappointing, as my younger self wrung out books, movies, and music in an attempt to find it before realizing that it existed only at the intersection of the white gaze and capitalist marketability. But Sarah, you might say, didn't you just say that you felt seen by the book's host of ideas, the names it drops, the way it mirrored your soul? (I'm being mildly sardonic here.) Sure, but I'd like to present a quote from near the end of the book here: "And so, like a snail's antenna that's been touched, I retracted the first person plural." Hong resists the commodification of the Asian American experience as thoughtfully and fearlessly as she lays bare her observations of it, her conclusions drawn from it. Hong's incredible handling -- honest, uncertain, messy, purposeful -- is what makes MINOR FEELINGS so powerful.I wish I'd had this book in college. I wish it'd been taught in all my college classes. I want everyone near to me, especially the white people near to me, to read this book. Content warning for (view spoiler)[ suicide attempts and ideation, rape, murder, racism, violence, abuse, drug use. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Emi Bevacqua
    January 1, 1970
    Mind-blowing exploration of the background, history and insidiousness of racism pertaining to Asian Americans. So up to the minute current it's meme-able. Cathy Park Hong says stuff I've thought about but could never put so eloquently, yet she also inserts awful images in my head that I can't get out. I don't like reading poetry or philosophy, but Minor Feelings was like a strange combination of the two that I couldn't get enough of. Park Hong's research, analysis and writing are all amazing; Mind-blowing exploration of the background, history and insidiousness of racism pertaining to Asian Americans. So up to the minute current it's meme-able. Cathy Park Hong says stuff I've thought about but could never put so eloquently, yet she also inserts awful images in my head that I can't get out. I don't like reading poetry or philosophy, but Minor Feelings was like a strange combination of the two that I couldn't get enough of. Park Hong's research, analysis and writing are all amazing; she's solving true crimes, describing Erin and Helen so exquisitely I feel as if I knew them myself, explaining complex terms like identititarianism, going back and breaking down the history of US legislation that first established exclusion in this country, and yet she would not let on as to what happened between her and her own mother. I cannot wait to read more from this writer. I got the ARC from NetGalley, but will be buying a hard copy for my bookshelves, to re-read again and again, when it comes out in February 2020.
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  • Thomas Feng
    January 1, 1970
    what a breath of fresh air!! I was surprised by how quickly I read it – books this perceptive usually take me longer, but the style is both sharp and conversational and I dashed through it. i may need another time through to really feel if it all really sticks but the first time through was a comfort, and with finally a healthy dose of rage to go with the classic Asian-American melancholy.an entire chapter on Theresa Hak Kyung Cha?? it’s what we needed (though it left me wanting more... in fact what a breath of fresh air!! I was surprised by how quickly I read it – books this perceptive usually take me longer, but the style is both sharp and conversational and I dashed through it. i may need another time through to really feel if it all really sticks but the first time through was a comfort, and with finally a healthy dose of rage to go with the classic Asian-American melancholy.an entire chapter on Theresa Hak Kyung Cha?? it’s what we needed (though it left me wanting more... in fact the entire book was over so quickly i wished it were longer!).i guess i also kinda wish she would’ve delved a little further into her myriad examples – maybe it’s me being a pedant but I appreciate most when she dives deep or sticks with a longer thread rather than bring something up only to never bring it up again.oh this all reminds me. I should read Dictée again.
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  • Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.This book is described as a collection of essays, which I don’t normally read, but I’m trying to push myself to read new genres and authors this year, especially books written by women of color.However, this book is so much more than a collection of essays. This book weaves together personal narrative, biographical narrative, and history. It illuminates so poignantly the racism that Cathy Park Hong has experienced and explores I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.This book is described as a collection of essays, which I don’t normally read, but I’m trying to push myself to read new genres and authors this year, especially books written by women of color.However, this book is so much more than a collection of essays. This book weaves together personal narrative, biographical narrative, and history. It illuminates so poignantly the racism that Cathy Park Hong has experienced and explores beautifully the tension she has internalized through all of her loved experiences.I was fascinated, humbled, saddened, and angered as I read about many of her experiences, and it fueled my commitment to continue my ongoing work and learning as I strive to be an ally.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    A thought-provoking and provocative collection of essays concentrating on the lived experience of being Asian-American in America. Hong is a Korean-American poet, so much of her life experience centers around being a child of successful Korean immigrants in a majority-white neighborhood and education system (Hong attended Oberlin for her undergrad). Those experiences are her jumping off point to examine microaggressions, language, the pressures of being the "good" immigrants, expectations of A thought-provoking and provocative collection of essays concentrating on the lived experience of being Asian-American in America. Hong is a Korean-American poet, so much of her life experience centers around being a child of successful Korean immigrants in a majority-white neighborhood and education system (Hong attended Oberlin for her undergrad). Those experiences are her jumping off point to examine microaggressions, language, the pressures of being the "good" immigrants, expectations of gratitude, and a beautiful, haunting essay that walks the line of biography and true crime about artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, an author and artist who was murdered in the early 1980s.A must-read for 2020.
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  • J
    January 1, 1970
    Thought-provoking, charged collection of personal essays dealing with Asian American history, identity and psychology. Hong is at her best when she effortlessly moves between intimate snapshots of her life with a mixture of social history (such as the 1992 LA Riots) as well as literary criticism: 'United', 'Stand Up' and 'Portrait of An Artist' (standout essay on Theresa Hak Kyung Cha) deserve highlight. Very accessible, almost loose, prose style which was a little disappointing given Hong's Thought-provoking, charged collection of personal essays dealing with Asian American history, identity and psychology. Hong is at her best when she effortlessly moves between intimate snapshots of her life with a mixture of social history (such as the 1992 LA Riots) as well as literary criticism: 'United', 'Stand Up' and 'Portrait of An Artist' (standout essay on Theresa Hak Kyung Cha) deserve highlight. Very accessible, almost loose, prose style which was a little disappointing given Hong's more innovative and challenging poetry; in some places the writing could have been tighter or benefited from being less conversational. Overall this a rewarding book tackling a topic which feels fresh and overdue.
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  • Susie Dumond
    January 1, 1970
    This breathtaking blend of memoir, cultural critique, and history lesson looks at the lived experiences of Asian Americans. Poet Cathy Park Hong calls out white centrism as the fun house mirror it is, and how it can warp views of the self and others. I was completed enraptured from the first page by the winding prose and emotional intensity. I feel like I highlighted at least half of the text! This is something I will absolutely return to again.Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC This breathtaking blend of memoir, cultural critique, and history lesson looks at the lived experiences of Asian Americans. Poet Cathy Park Hong calls out white centrism as the fun house mirror it is, and how it can warp views of the self and others. I was completed enraptured from the first page by the winding prose and emotional intensity. I feel like I highlighted at least half of the text! This is something I will absolutely return to again.Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Sejal Shah
    January 1, 1970
    This book should be required reading. Hong's writing is sharp, the personal stories, Asian American history, and cultural critique are necessary and vital. She's also a tremendous essayist--some sentences stopped me in my tracks.
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning.
  • Never Without a Book
    January 1, 1970
    No words I put here today can express how amazing this book is. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong is just flipping BRILLIANT, yes, in all caps! As a minority working in corporate America, I felt like Asians were the “preferred minority”, Hong mentions this and what she says about the topic was like a light bulb turn on. Reading about Asian Americans suffrage of racism and discrimination, blew my mind and I was taken back on how much some of their pain reflects on No words I put here today can express how amazing this book is. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong is just flipping BRILLIANT, yes, in all caps! As a minority working in corporate America, I felt like Asians were the “preferred minority”, Hong mentions this and what she says about the topic was like a light bulb turn on. Reading about Asian Americans suffrage of racism and discrimination, blew my mind and I was taken back on how much some of their pain reflects on those of Black Americans. Seriously, I just don’t know how else to describe what Hong has shared in her book. The clarity and understand that “It’s not just us” is mind blowing. There are tons of own voice reviews out there and I highly recommend you check them out. Read this book!Thank you, Random House/ One World for gifting me an ARC, in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Elise
    January 1, 1970
    Some of the cultural criticism felt inaccessible to me but the writing she does about her own experience and the generalized trauma of Asian-Americans really resonated. Read, especially if you're an Asian American woman who grew up in the 1980s-1990s as she (and I) did.
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  • Rosa
    January 1, 1970
    I highlighted so many passages of this book that the Kindle screen now looks Day Glo. Park Hong's observations strongly resonated with my experience (also 1st gen Asian [Chinese] American with parents I had to translate for, around the same age, and also pursued an English degree in school), and her essays hold such a bounty of carefully-thought out passages about what it really means to have been Americans for so long, yet perpetually on the fringes/cast as the "silent" character; since I highlighted so many passages of this book that the Kindle screen now looks Day Glo. Park Hong's observations strongly resonated with my experience (also 1st gen Asian [Chinese] American with parents I had to translate for, around the same age, and also pursued an English degree in school), and her essays hold such a bounty of carefully-thought out passages about what it really means to have been Americans for so long, yet perpetually on the fringes/cast as the "silent" character; since finishing the book, I can actually discern a difference in how I process the world around me, which is invaluable.While many of Hong's ideas are critical to ongoing explorations of Asian American identity, I'm disappointed to say that as a whole, the book fell short of feeling like "mine." At times I found Park Hong's voice/references highly "academic" - not just the straight up prose, but the playful writing as well... sometimes it read almost like an evasion, or some form of defensiveness. It's not just the numerous allusions to literary theory or visual art that many of us don't encounter on a daily basis; it's the very way she drops some arcane reference, then moves on to her next point without saying much more about the writer/essay/etc. she just invoked. Something about this tendency feels overly insular to my sensibility, like preaching to a fairly specialized choir. I noticed a few GR readers (also Asian American, also around my age) characterizing aspects of the book as being "unrelatable," and wonder if they were responding to the same issues I had. Park Hong herself muses more than once about who her intended audience is. She's a college professor... is this book for fellow professors, and her students? I certainly felt like I was one again at times ("No, you're not back at the computer lab at 3 am, desperately trying to cobble a certain-to-be-inadequate presentation on Trinh Minh-ha by dawn - For Fun, you're reading this book FOR FUN!!!") To call the book an Asian American "reckoning," I'd hoped for something more universal, more accessible. Casually dropping words like "synecdoche"- if the point is to wake us up, to galvanize us, should we need to come with our dictionaries and our Norton Anthologies too?I don't know if Park Hong's voice just comes out like that at times because she's so entrenched in the world of academia, or if it's the notion that observations don't count as much when they're confined to just personal experience, so one has to "zoom out" by pulling in academically-established references - does conversational/anecdotal writing have to be buttressed by literary theory, references to "high art," and other established academic signposts - does it have to prove that it's "more"? So be it, but it doesn't feel particularly fresh. It feels like homework. Looking over other GR reviews, it seems the strongest reactions to Park Hong's writing from Asian Americans were to the more immediately personal and anecdotal essays. I don't think I'm alone in wishing she had leaned into the personal even further. [This is not to say that the book is Impersonal, or that it didn't cost her a lot to write - in fact, she mentions in a Salon interview that there's talk of a Korean translation, and she's worried about how her family will react if they can fully understand her writing - yikes... I get your Asian American pain, Cathy Park Hong! But yes, the part of the writing that you're worried about your folks seeing, that was the best part. If they're going to be mad anyway, you should have just gone all in.] I recently watched Raoul Peck's amazing film about James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro, which is entirely scripted with excerpts from Baldwin's writing. I also just reread Toni Morrison's Beloved. While measuring anyone against two genius legends is admittedly unfair, both works left me completely invigorated in how they showed that marginalization, identity, and self-perception can be explored in a way that's deeply personal yet universal, poetic in a way that draws the reader in (rather than puts up screens...) Overall I was hoping for something more along those lines here - something about us, that ALL of "us" (if that "us" was even the goal) can gather around. Nevertheless, by the sheer number of ideas that have stayed with me, this was absolutely vital, eye-opening writing. I'd been reading various essays by Asian American writers analyzing how much of Andrew Yang's success rested in how he flattened out his "difference" for mass appeal; it was deeply reassuring to read such complex, impassioned essays by an Asian American writer who no doubt felt just as distressed by that possibility as I did. [Side note - Park Hong writes that she didn't like Ken Burns's Vietnam doc because it doesn't do much for the spectrum of the Vietnamese POV; I just started watching the doc myself, expressly because I heard several Vietnamese Americans on a podcast about the Vietnamese American refugee experience - Pho episode rave about how well Ken Burns and Lynn Novak portrayed the wide range of Vietnamese POVs - just another instance of how we don't all have the same opinions on everything, a truth which Park Hong would undoubtedly appreciate being reinforced.]
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  • Marian P
    January 1, 1970
    Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings is a brilliantly written memoir depicting her experiences navigating her racial identity as an Asian American (Korean American) with prescient insight into identity issues, POCs in publishing, positionality and cultural production, and so much more. To say that I was utterly gob smacked by her introspective, intentional meditations is a gross understatement. Although I am Latinx (Chicana) and not Asian American, there are many ways in which the Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings is a brilliantly written memoir depicting her experiences navigating her racial identity as an Asian American (Korean American) with prescient insight into identity issues, POCs in publishing, positionality and cultural production, and so much more. To say that I was utterly gob smacked by her introspective, intentional meditations is a gross understatement. Although I am Latinx (Chicana) and not Asian American, there are many ways in which the book resonated. The book is largely chronologically organized in a collection of essays as Hong begins by bravely sharing her bout with depression and her challenges in trying to secure a Korean therapist. In the opening chapter aptly titled “United,” the shape of myriad Asian American experiences are drawn. The false veneer of the model minority myth is ever-present and thus limits an actual understanding of diverse ethnic and class experiences, as Hong quips, “We are reputed to be so accomplished, and so law-abiding, and so we will disappear into this country’s amnesiac fog.” She then proceeds to paint the historic contours of many Asian ethnic groups in the United States to shatter the idea that Asian Americans desire to (and readily) assimilate into the mainstream. Invisibility is a significant manifestation of racism for Asian Americans.The crux of the book, however, is the second chapter “Stand Up” where the concept of “minor feelings” is explained as the negative feelings that arise when the mainstream is unwilling to understand the experiences of POC and thus we end up resorting to such feelings as paranoia, melancholy, and shame. But Hong expresses the idea better than I could every paraphrase as “the racialized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic, built from the sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one’s perceptions of reality constantly questioned or dismissed.” This is the cause of Hong’s depressive condition conveyed at the book’s opening. This concept took me back nearly 20 years when I was teaching ethnic studies courses at one of the whitest and wealthiest California public universities. At that time, I introduced my students to Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Let’s just say it was a “tough” gig that gave me some major minor feelings. Finally, Hong discusses the state of POC in publishing. Scathingly, she illuminates the way in which publishing largely desires unidimensional stories lacking any semblance of the complexity of our actual lived experiences stating that “they want ethnicity to be siloed because it is easier to understand, easier to brand.” At this moment when as Latinx readers—and those who are writers—our stories are cheapened by facile, inaccurate renderings, Hong’s book is perfectly timed. The book is both lyrical and analytical, all at the same time. Thank you One World for choosing to center gripping books in the timbre of Minor Feelings and thank you Cathy Park Hong for writing this extraordinary book. This book is highly recommended for those interested in Asian American studies, memoir, and discussions of art and identity.
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  • Rebekah
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 starsIn the first essay of this collection, Cathy Park Hong describes searching for a Korean therapist, falsely believing that their shared Koreanness will lead to a kinship that will make therapy more productive for her. Hong does find a Korean therapist, but the therapist turns her down without saying why, and Hong begins a jilted lover routine before finally realizing she needs a non-Korean therapist so her depression can get examined objectively, and so she can stop thinking her 2.5 starsIn the first essay of this collection, Cathy Park Hong describes searching for a Korean therapist, falsely believing that their shared Koreanness will lead to a kinship that will make therapy more productive for her. Hong does find a Korean therapist, but the therapist turns her down without saying why, and Hong begins a jilted lover routine before finally realizing she needs a non-Korean therapist so her depression can get examined objectively, and so she can stop thinking her depression is a result of culture. Picking up this book, I was like Hong and she was the Korean therapist - because we're both Korean, because we're Asian American, this series of essays about that Asian American experience has to apply to me because we're a part of this shared universal culture. Obviously, that's not true, and maybe it's my fault for having this dumb mindset going into this book, but I related to almost nothing Hong wrote about. I'm Korean; I'm Asian American, but Hong and I don't have any shared experiences (except maybe experiencing racism), and that did make this book a let down. There are a couple of reasons why I can't relate to Hong's "Asian American Reckoning," first and foremost is probably because I'm an adoptee and didn't grow up in an Asian household or with Asian culture, and I am younger than her, so the world has changed in some ways. Despite how readily I can identify why Hong's experiences aren't universal, Hong writes in a way that generalizes Asian American experience and I didn't understand why. It may be petty of me, but Hong's personality really turned me off. In the essays about her life in academia, Hong talks a lot about her arrogance - and this sense of self-importance really permeated a lot of her essays. Personally, this is a personality trait I dislike in anyone, and so being confronted by this personality trait made this reading experience more unpleasant. I also felt like she projected a lot of her identity issues onto others - the prime example being her experience at the nail salon being tended to by a teenage Vietnamese boy and Hong figuring their terse encounter was a result of both of them struggling with their self-hatred over being Asian. That essay made me scratch my head and wonder, "do I still hate myself for being Asian? I used to, when I was young and surrounded by racist non-Asian peers, but not anymore, I don't think." Maybe I still equate self-hatred with being young, so I thought this whole exchange was immature on Hong's part. I don't know. Maybe Hong would say I think this way because I still hate myself for being Asian. I think I couldn't enjoy this book because my mindset and worldview just clash too much with Hong's, and I don't think her generalizations about Asian American experience characterize my experiences at all. I also came to the conclusion that I do not like essays on cultural criticism because I do not actually care about other people's hot takes.
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  • Helen
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free digital copy in exchange for my honest opinion. And, after reading the digital copy, I immediately went out and purchased a physical copy. I know that this will be one of the most important books I read this year. While reading this, I was faced with experiences and emotions that I’ve long forgotten or suppressed. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to relive them. But, I had no choice. In being so honest about her experience, which in turn looked like mine, the author left me feeling so I received a free digital copy in exchange for my honest opinion. And, after reading the digital copy, I immediately went out and purchased a physical copy. I know that this will be one of the most important books I read this year. While reading this, I was faced with experiences and emotions that I’ve long forgotten or suppressed. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to relive them. But, I had no choice. In being so honest about her experience, which in turn looked like mine, the author left me feeling so exposed and raw. And a part of me resented her for it. Like the author, my parents immigrated to the US from Korea in search of a better life. And like her, I grew up in Koreatown in Los Angeles. But, unlike her, I remained there. My parents still live there to this day. And while it is “cool” to live there now after it’s been gentrified, it was a struggle growing up. My family was directly affected by the LA Riots, especially my mom. A woman who spoke better Spanish than English, she worked 6 days a week for 12 hours a day at a small shop inside a swap meet in South Central, LA. She was caught in a crossfire of a shooting and was also held up at gun point, all before her store was burned down during the riots. This book brought back all the unpleasant memories of my childhood. I was forced to face head-on not only the shame I felt of being different, but the shame I had of my parents. I was embarrassed of where we lived and where my mom worked. When my friends’ parents would ask what she did for a living I would lie. When I would get dropped off by other parents, I would lie and say I lived in one of the nicer places and walk the rest of the way home, ashamed to show them the torn down apartment building I lived in. I was also embarrassed at how weak my parents seemed. I’ve seen them get ridiculed due to their lack of English and I resented them for not learning fast enough. I thought they were weak because they could not stand up for themselves, which made me believe they could not stand up for me. They could not protect me. So, I learned not stand up for myself either. Because who would be there to help me?As an adult, I realize how wrong I was at mistaking their language barrier as weakness. I did not realize the strength it takes to move to a country where you don’t know the language and do whatever it takes to provide for your family. Even if that means putting your head down and pretending you don’t see them slant their eyes and saying “ching chong” as you walk by.To read this book was like looking into a mirror of my past, and instead of rose-colored glasses I am wearing a magnifying glass, forced to relive the details of my shame, resentment and guilt. This made me resent the author because I felt like she was telling my story without my permission. But, it’s not just my story. It is my father’s, my mother’s and my brother’s. It belongs to my friends and my community. And through the authors story, I found strength, validation and pride. And I thank her for it.
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