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, Literature, Asian Literature, Social Movements, Social Justice, History, Sociology, Biography Memoir, Adult

Minor Feelings Review

  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    This book blew me the heck away, definitely one of the top five essay collections I have ever read. In Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, Cathy Park Hong delves into Asian American identity through the lens of history, psychology, and her own lived experience as a Korean American daughter of immigrants. This collection feels so necessary because Asian Americans receive such one-dimensional characterization in the United States: were math whizzes, we have wild tiger parents, were crazy This book blew me the heck away, definitely one of the top five essay collections I have ever read. In Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, Cathy Park Hong delves into Asian American identity through the lens of history, psychology, and her own lived experience as a Korean American daughter of immigrants. This collection feels so necessary because Asian Americans receive such one-dimensional characterization in the United States: we’re math whizzes, we have wild tiger parents, we’re crazy rich, or now, we’re the ones who started Coronavirus. Hong eviscerates these reductionist stereotypes and explores Asian American complexity by sharing our history rife with colonization, the intergenerational trauma faced by our parents and passed down to us, and the ways in which we either resist whiteness or get subsumed by it. The most powerful part of this collection revolves around Hong’s capacity to connect the historical to the personal, such as this reflection on United Airline’s brutal treatment of David Dao Duy Anh, a Vietnamese American passenger:“In 1975, Saigon had fallen. His home was no longer his home. Dao was forced to flee as a refugee, and he and his wife raised their family of five kids in Kentucky, a new home that… had its own share of absurd hardships. Dao was caught trafficking prescription drugs for sex and lost his medical license, after which he earned his income as a poker player. While I agree with his defenders that his rap sheet is irrelevant to the United Airlines incident, it’s relevant to me, since it helps us see Dao in a more complex, realistic light. Dao is not a criminal nor is he some industrious automaton who could escape the devastation of his homeland and, through a miraculous arc of resilience, become an upstanding doctor whose kids are also doctors. For many immigrants, if you move here with trauma, you’re going to do what it takes to get by. You cheat. You beat your wife. You gamble. You’re a survivor and, like most survivors, you’re a god-awful parent. Watching Dao, I thought of my father watching his own father being dragged out of his own home. I thought of Asians throughout history being dragged against their will, driven or chased out of their native homes, out of their adopted homes, out of their native country, out of their adopted country: ejected, evicted, exiled.”Though some of Hong’s commentary and analyses may tread familiar ground for those already immersed in Asian American issues, I felt that she injected new depth to the conversation about Asian Americans in the United States. For example, I saw the publishing industry more clearly through Hong’s analysis of Jhumpa Lahiri’s work and how Lahiri’s preeminence in the literary sphere has forced the Asian American narrative to assimilate to a standard, comforting trope for the white gaze. Toward the end of the book, Hong drops – in the middle of a stunning self-analysis – a piercing truth about how Koreans’ fixation with double eyelid surgery stems from Dr. Ralph Millard, an American surgeon who tested the surgery on Korean sex workers to make them more appealing to GIs during the Korean War. As a somewhat big K-Pop fan (love me some Itzy and BlackPink) I have always found the Korean obsession with plastic surgery odd and superficial; Hong’s ability to link that obsession back to colonization and the imperialism of whiteness helped me see the truth, just like how many truths about Asian American identity and history have been erased or hidden from our view.The personal components of this essay collection shine as well. Hong’s background as a poet comes as no surprise given how the scenes from her personal life felt so well-written, like you could imagine yourself experiencing her past with her. I literally cringed when she described a moment from her childhood when she watched a group of white kids make fun of her grandmother’s English, kick her onto the ground, and then laugh at her – it reminded me of my own grandmother and I just pulsated with hurt and anger reading that scene. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I felt such a sense of pride and camaraderie when Hong detailed her intense, magnetic friendship during her undergraduate years with Erin and Helen, two other Asian women artists, and how their friendship with one another both hurt at times while also pushed them all to a place of artistic self-confidence that transcended white male expectations. Hong invests her whole heart and mind into Minor Feelings, which shows through the major connections she makes between Asian Americans’ political placement in the United States and her personal experience as an artist, daughter, friend, and more. Here’s another passage that stood out to me, about Asian Americans needing to reckon with whiteness:“I have to address whiteness because Asian Americans have yet to truly reckon with where we stand in the capitalist white supremacist hierarchy of this country. We are so far from reckoning with it that some Asians think that race has no bearing on their lives, that it doesn’t’ “come up,” which is as misguided as white people saying the same thing about themselves, not only because of discrimination we have faced but because of the entitlements we’ve been granted due to our racial identity. These Asians are my cousins; my ex-boyfriend; these Asians are myself, cocooned in Brooklyn, caught unawares on a nice warm day, thinking I don’t have to be affected by race; I only choose to think about it. 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. To varying degrees, all Asians who have grown up in the United States know intimately the same I have described; have felt its oily flame.”Overall, I would highly recommend this book to everyone, though it may resonate most personally with East Asians who are 1.5 or 2nd generation living in the United States. I reflected a lot on my own parents and Asian American identity while reading Minor Feelings, and I feel more motivated to honor my parents’ complex experiences despite the difficulties in our relationship. I also feel, as I’ve shared about in several of my recent blog posts, more determined to dismantle white supremacy through being a loud and proud Vietnamese American who protests racism even when it makes white people uncomfortable. Hong acknowledges that this collection does not encompass the enormity or entirety of the Asian American experience, which I agree with. I hope this book can act as another launching point for further reflection and activism that includes and centers South Asians, queer Asian Americans, and more. For now, I feel grateful for this book’s existence and hope that it gains great traction in 2020 and beyond.
    more
  • Jaclyn
    January 1, 1970
    I have never felt so seen, have never been able to put into wordsmuch less effectively emote to othersfeelings such as being gaslighted since childhood of my own experiences of racism as an Asian American and being made to feel like theyre not worthy of validation. I dont 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 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.
    more
  • 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!
    more
  • Bkwmlee
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsUpon finishing Cathy Park Hongs 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 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.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • Maxwell
    January 1, 1970
    I found this book at times riveting and personal (in that the author shares some private moments that completely captivate the reader), and at other times distancing and more like a historical text (neither of those are bad things). It balances this place of analysis and memoir unlike most non-fiction I read which leans to either side but doesn't find that middle ground.She reckons with her identity as an Asian American while exploring larger themes of unity, art, friendship, mental health and I found this book at times riveting and personal (in that the author shares some private moments that completely captivate the reader), and at other times distancing and more like a historical text (neither of those are bad things). It balances this place of analysis and memoir unlike most non-fiction I read which leans to either side but doesn't find that middle ground.She reckons with her identity as an Asian American while exploring larger themes of unity, art, friendship, mental health and much more. Her poeticism comes through in the beautiful writing which I admired. My only issue with this was its organization. I didn't feel like there was a through-line to follow from chapter to chapter. It didn't have the traditional memoir structure of a linear timeline or reflection on one certain period of her life to keep me grounded. For me it felt more like seven good essays packaged together but they did not always connect or lead logically into the next topic.It's not the best essay collection I've ever read but I'd still recommend it to those interested. And I'm interested to read her poetry next!
    more
  • 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 dont 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]
    more
  • 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 its 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!
    more
  • 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 those 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.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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, its history, its personal, but I also think Hongs background in poetry shines through, and her words are truly beautifully, precisely, and incisively curated. As an Asian American, the clear-eyed truths of 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!)
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • Anna
    January 1, 1970
    A book of essays on Cathy Park Hong's take on the Asian-American experience. The book and the essays within are a mish-mash of cultural criticism, Asian-American history, and autobiography/memoir that is used to dissect the lack of racial parity for a racial minority that is commonly reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes in the media. There is no softening of her words for the white audience, no need to appeal to the white gaze. The stories and feeling Hong writes about go beyond the A book of essays on Cathy Park Hong's take on the Asian-American experience. The book and the essays within are a mish-mash of cultural criticism, Asian-American history, and autobiography/memoir that is used to dissect the lack of racial parity for a racial minority that is commonly reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes in the media. There is no softening of her words for the white audience, no need to appeal to the white gaze. The stories and feeling Hong writes about go beyond the micro-aggressions that make up day-to-day life and puts words to feelings that I've had but never really been able to properly vocalize."Most white Americans can only understand racial trauma as a spectacle. Right after Trump's election, the media reported on the uptick in hate crimes, tending to focus on the obvious heretical displays of hate: the white high school students parading down the hallways wearing Confederate flag capes and the graffitied swastikas. 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...Trump's presidency has triggered a flashback of childhood...this trigger does not necessarily mean recalling a specific racist incident but a flashback to a feeling: a thrum of fear and shame, a tight animal alertness."I think it's fitting that I was devouring this book the same day failed Presidential candidate Andrew Yang wrote his ridiculous Op-Ed for the Washington Post. While this book was a crash course of Asian-American studies, Mr. Yang's Op-Ed was a crash course in showing how even within the As-Am community, there are some people who still think that a little appeasement goes a long way. Historically, there is nothing that shows that works. Hong wrote this book before SARS-CoV2 started it's march around the globe. The publication date was set long before a pandemic would make it's way through countries and communities, resulting in the POTUS calling it the "Chinese virus" and the US spiraling into either a recession or depression (it remains to be seen). When I first heard about this book, Asian-Americans weren't being targeted for hate crimes to the point where I now feel the need to hide my Asian-ness as much as possible in public. It was simpler times for us, where the racism was less overt and our problems more difficult to explain. Now on top of the "minor feelings" that Hong talks about, we also have "major feelings" to contend with. But the essays in the book show why that switch was so easy to flip. How easy it went from being ignored, mocked, fetishized, exoticized, to being feared, attacked, and condemned. The othering was always there. The groundwork had been laid out and that program was ready to go. If anything, this unfortunately validates the fear that we had tried to bury but would continuously bubble up.I think this was the book I needed to read at this moment. Instead of running around shaking everyone on the shoulder (in a socially distant manner of course) and screaming "OMG DO YOU FEEL THIS WAY TOO? DO YOU GET IT?", I read a book that encapsulated what I was feeling and thinking. Even if a lot of her memoir and upbringing was different from mine, there was still something that clicked for me.
    more
  • Francesca Calarco
    January 1, 1970
    For as long as I could remember, I have struggled to prove myself into existence. I, the modern-day scrivener, working five times as hard as others and still I saw my hand dissolve, then my arm My confidence was impoverished from a lifelong diet of conditional love and a society who thinks Im as interchangeable as lint. (9) Right off the bat, I can attest that there is nothing minor about Cathy Park Hongs personal and intellectual honesty in Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning. Writing “For as long as I could remember, I have struggled to prove myself into existence. I, the modern-day scrivener, working five times as hard as others and still I saw my hand dissolve, then my arm… My confidence was impoverished from a lifelong diet of conditional love and a society who thinks I’m as interchangeable as lint.” (9) Right off the bat, I can attest that there is nothing minor about Cathy Park Hong’s personal and intellectual honesty in Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning. Writing this review from 2020 in the U.S. where we have seen a dramatic spike in Asian American hate crimes due to conservative insistence on labeling COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” I can say that Hong is 100% valid in her scathing critiques of American society. Specifically, she writes about the building blocks that can ultimately lead to violence—what she describes as minor feelings. She defines this term 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.” (55) Essentially, it’s a type of societal gaslighting that belittles the realities of microaggressions, which then become challenging to verbalize precisely due to standardized societal silence. I think what makes Hong’s work so impactful, is that she not only critique’s society’s lack of empathy, but she also self-evaluates her own blind spots and biases. People who are oppressed can themselves inadvertently become oppressors of lesser protected people, and by voicing these elements of humanity that can be present in anyone (including herself), Hong is all the more able to authentically bolster her arguments and assessments. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and definitely recommend it. Work like this is so vital and important, especially during tumultuous times like these.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • Ming
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book in 2 days! It's very compelling and accessible.This is one of the most clear-eyed and insightful discussions about being Asian American and about race in America. (No, never a hyphen in "Asian American" when talking about the people! Hong doesn't use a hyphen either! The NYT "style" is wrong.)She is straight-forward and vulnerable in equal measure. Hong conveys insights and analyses that are sharp and provocative. And it is extremely personal, unapologetically personal.As I read this book in 2 days! It's very compelling and accessible.This is one of the most clear-eyed and insightful discussions about being Asian American and about race in America. (No, never a hyphen in "Asian American" when talking about the people! Hong doesn't use a hyphen either! The NYT "style" is wrong.)She is straight-forward and vulnerable in equal measure. Hong conveys insights and analyses that are sharp and provocative. And it is extremely personal, unapologetically personal.As importantly, these “creative fiction” essays are beautifully written; a poet’s touch graces the words, the images and the sounds. I especially found her critique of American literature and the publishing industry enlightening as it posed difficult questions about my awareness as a reader and consumer.Her take on race, gender, sexuality, etc. is precise and unflinching. Hong handles psychological phenomenon and cultural factors with surgical skills and argues her point with clarity and passion.Some quotes:¶ For the last twenty years, until recently, Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories were the temple of ethnic fiction that supports the fantasy of Asian American immigrants as compliant strivers. The fault lies not in Lahiri herself, who I think is an absorbing storyteller, but in the publishing industry that used to position her books as the “single story” on immigrant life. Using enough comforting ethnic props to satisfy the white reader’s taste for cultural difference, Lahiri write in a flat, restrained prose, where her characters never think or feel but just do: “I opened a bank account, rented a post office box, and bought a plastic bowl and a spoon at Woolworth’s.” Her characters are always understated and avoid any interiority, which, as Jane Hu writes in The New Yorker, has become a fairly typical literary affect that signals Asianness (in fact, more East Asianness than South Asianness) to readers....¶ Much of Lahiri's fiction complies with the MFA orthodoxy of show, don't tell, which allows the reader to step into the character's pain without having to, as Susan Sontag writes, locate their own privilege "on the same map" as the character's suffering. Because the character's inner thoughts are evacuated, the reader can get behind the cockpit of the character's consciousness and cinematically see what the character sees without being disturbed by incessant editorializing. (48-49)¶ 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? I don’t think, therefore I am—I hurt, therefore I am. Therefore, my books are graded on a pain scale. If it’s 2, maybe it’s worth telling my story. If it’s 10, my book will be a bestseller.¶ Of course, writers of color must tell their stories of racial trauma, but for too long our stories have been shaped by the white imagination. Publishers expect authors to privatize their trauma: an exceptional family or historic tragedy test the character before they arrive at a revelation of self-affirmation. In many Asian American novels, writers set trauma in a distant mother country or within an insular Asian family to ensure that their pain is not reproof against American imperial geopolitics or domestic racism; the outlying forces that cause their pain—Asian Patriarchal Father, White People Back Then—are remote enough to allow everyone, including the reader off the hook.¶ At the start of his career, the poet and novelist Ocean Vuong was the living embodiment of human resilience…In multiple interviews, Vuong is asked to rehearse his shattering experiences of refugee impoverishment and the salvation he found in poetry. He assures the public that he has not only sung but lived through his libretto of hurt so that his poetry and biography have become welded into a single American myth of individual strength. (49-51)¶ Where do I, as a Korean American woman, situate myself when (Richard) Pryor sets up these black/white binaries? One minute I'm laughing at white people, and feeling the rage of black oppression as if it's my own, until the next bit, when I realize I'm allied with white people....(53)¶ In Pryor, I saw someone channel what I call minor feelings: the racialized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic, built from sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one’s perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed. Minor feelings arrive, for instance upon hearing a slight, knowing it’s racial, and being told, Oh, that’s all in your head. A now-classic book that explores minor feelings is Claudine Rakine’s Citizen. After hearing a racist remark, the speaker asks herself, What did you say? She saw what she saw, she heard what she heard, but after her reality has been belittled so many times, she begins to doubt her very own senses. Such disfiguring of senses engenders the minor feelings of paranoia, shame, irritation, and melancholy.¶ Minor feelings are not often featured in contemporary American literature because these emotions do not conform to the archetypical narrative that highlights survival and self-determination. Unlike the organizing principle of a bildungsroman, minor feelings are not generated from major change but from lack of change, in particular, structural racial and economic change. Rather than using racial trauma as a dramatic stage of individual growth, the literature of minor feelings explores the trauma of a racist capitalist system that keeps the individual in place. It’s play tennis “while black” and dining out “while black.” It’s hearing the same verdict when testimony after testimony has been given. After every print run, Rankine adds another name of a black citizen murdered by a cop to the already long list of names at the end of the book. This act acknowledges both a remembering and the fact that change is not happening fast enough. (55-56)¶ 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…¶ Minor feelings are also the emotions we are accused of having when we decide to be difficult—in order words, when we decide to be honest. When minor feelings are finally externalized, they are interpreted as hostile, ungrateful, jealous, depressing, and belligerent, affects ascribed to racialized behavior that whites consider out of line. Our feelings are overreactions because our lived experiences of structural inequity are not commensurate with their deluded reality. (56-57)¶ Writing about race is a polemic, in that we must confront the white capitalist infrastructure that has erased us, but also a lyric, in that our inner consciousness is knotted with contradictions. As much as I protest against the easy narrative of overcoming, I have to believe we will overcome racial inequities; as much has I’m exasperated by sentimental immigrant stories of suffering, I think Korean are some of the most traumatized people I know. As I try to move beyond the stereotypes to express my inner consciousness, it’s clear that how I am perceived inheres to who I am. To truthfully write about race, I almost have to write against narrative because the racialized mind is, as Frantz Fanon wrote, an “infernal circle.” (64)¶ One characteristic of racism is that children are treated like adults and adults are treated like children. Watching a parent debased like a child is the deepest shame. I cannot count the number of times I have seen my parents condescended to or mocked by white adults. This was so customary that when my mother had any encounter with a white adult, I was always hypervigilant, ready to mediate or pull her away. To grow up in Asian America is to witness the humiliation of authority figures like your parents and to learn not to depend on them: they cannot protect you.¶ The indignity of being Asian in this country has been underreported. We have been cowed by the lie that we have it good. We keep our heads down and work hard, believing that our diligence will only make us disappear. By not speaking up, we perpetuate the myth that our shame is caused by our repressive culture and the country we fled, whereas America has given us nothing but opportunity. The lie that Asians have it good is so insidious that even now as I write, I’m shadowed by doubt that I didn’t have it bad compared to others. But racist trauma is not a competitive sport. The problem is not that my childhood was exceptionally traumatic but that it was in fact rather typical. (77-78)¶ It’s also human nature to repel shame by penalizing and refusing continued engagement with the source of their shame. Most white Americans live in segregated environment, which, as Alcoff writes, “protects and insulates them from race-based stress.” As a result, any proximity to minorities—seeing Latinx families move into their town, watching news clips of black protesters chanting “I can’t breathe” in Grand Central Station—sparks intolerable discomfort. Suddenly Americans feel self-conscious of their white identity and this self-consciousness misleads them into thinking their identity is under threat. In feeling wrong, they feel wronged. In being asked to be made aware of white tears, white tears turn dangerous. White tears, as Damon Young explains in The Root, are why defeated Southerners refused to accept the freedom of black slaves and formed the Ku Klux Klan. And white tears are why 63% of white men and 53% of white women elected a malignant man-child as their leader. 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. 88¶ Whether our families come from Guatemala, Afghanistan, or South Korea, the immigrants since 1965 shared histories that extend beyond this nation, to our countries of origin, where our lineage has been decimated by Western imperialism, war, and dictatorships orchestrated or supported by the United States. In our efforts to belong in America, we act grateful, as if we’ve been given a second change at life. But our shared root is not the opportunity this nation has given us but how the capitalist accumulation of white supremacy has enriched itself off the blood of our countries. We cannot forget this. 89-90¶ Rather than “speaking about” a culture outside your experience, the filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha suggests we “speak nearby.” In an interview for Artform, 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 those who populate your film: in other words, to leave the space of representation open so that, although you’re very close to your subject, you’re also committed to not speaking on their behalf, in their place or on top of them. You can only speak nearby, in proximity (whether they other is physically present or absent), which requires that you deliberately suspend meaning, preventing it from merely closing and hence leaving a gap in the formation process. This allows the other person to come in and fill that space as they wish…(102-103)¶ Myung Mi Kim was the first poet who said I didn’t need to sound like a white poet nor did I have to “translate” my experiences so that they sounded accessible to a white audience. No other mentor afterwards was so emphatic about this idea as her. Illegibility was a political act. In the past, I was encouraged to write about my Asian experience but I still had to write it in a way a white poet would—so instead of copying a white poet, I was copying a white poet copying their idea of an Asian poet. When Kim first read my poems, she said, “Why are you imitating someone else’s speech patterns?” I said, “I don’t know.” She said, “What is your earliest memory of language? Write a poem from that memory.”¶ A friend and poet, Eugene Ostashevsky, said that “if you knock English enough, it becomes a door to another language.” This is what Myung Mi Kim first taught me: to knock at English, using what I considered my ineloquence—my bilingualism, my childhood struggles with English—and fuse that into my own collection of lexemes that came closest to my conflicted consciousness. 139-140¶ From invisible girlhood, the Asian American woman will blossom in a fetish object. When she is at last visible—at last desired—she realizes much to her chagrin that this desire for her is treated like a perversion. This is most obvious in porn, where our murky desires are coldly isolated into categories in which white is the default and every other race is sexual aberration. But the Asian woman is reminded every day that her attractiveness is a perversion, in instances ranging from skin-crawling Tinder messages (“I’d like to try my first Asian woman”) to microaggressions from white friends. I recall a white friend pointing out to me that Jewish men only dated Asian women because they wanted to find women who were the opposite of their pushy mothers. Implied in this tone-deaf complaint was her assumption that Asian women are docile and compliant. Well-meaning friends never fail to warn me, if a white guy was attracted to me, that he probably had an Asian fetish. The result: I distrusted my desirousness. My sexuality was a pathology. If anyone non-Asian liked me, there was something wrong with him. 174-175
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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 ones perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed.this book blew me away with its perceptiveness and honesty. there was so much in here that ive 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 ‘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!]
    more
  • 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...
    more
  • Adrian Chiem
    January 1, 1970
    I have, in the past two years, finally understood that I long identified myself as gay before I identified myself as Chinese or Asian-American. It was not for not trying in moments when I was overwhelmed by first-generation guilt in college, I found myself instead grappling with letting my mother into my world (which is to say, coming out), and let that conflict wash through my concepts of Hong describes as "indebtedness." I'm now finding myself craving creative and narrative expressions of I have, in the past two years, finally understood that I long identified myself as gay before I identified myself as Chinese or Asian-American. It was not for not trying — in moments when I was overwhelmed by first-generation guilt in college, I found myself instead grappling with letting my mother into my world (which is to say, coming out), and let that conflict wash through my concepts of Hong describes as "indebtedness." I'm now finding myself craving creative and narrative expressions of Asian-Americanness (and in some, AA queerness) in artists like those curated at the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney, AUS, and in voices like Alexander Chee and Ocean Vuong, and now Cathy Park Hong, as well. I want to know this book deeply because I feel seen in her stories; I recognize visages of my rage, my shame, my invisibility, and my own deep reckoning — now boiling over after years of being trapped and compartmentalized in jars of fear and attempts to survive. This is required reading.
    more
  • Rachel León
    January 1, 1970
    I was going to give it 4 stars, then read the ending and now theres only one possible rating. I was going to give it 4 stars, then read the ending and now there’s only one possible rating.
  • Kori
    January 1, 1970
    Whew, this book. I loved Hongs discussion of the artistic process for herself & other Asian American creatives working within/against/around/through racism and the white gaze. She doesnt hide her frustration, her Ive had it up to here. She deftly ties her experience as a Korean American with the related AND distinct experiences of Asian Americans, Black Americans, and Latinx Americans. Her concept of Minor Feelings effectively articulates the malignant build-up of racist practices & Whew, this book. I loved Hong’s discussion of the artistic process for herself & other Asian American creatives working within/against/around/through racism and the white gaze. She doesn’t hide her frustration, her “I’ve had it up to here.” She deftly ties her experience as a Korean American with the related AND distinct experiences of Asian Americans, Black Americans, and Latinx Americans. Her concept of “Minor Feelings” effectively articulates the malignant build-up of racist practices & microaggressions that makes POC question their reality. Be sure you read this, whether you study race or need a none-too-frequent reminder that YOU are not alone.
    more
  • Q
    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.
    more
  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to the publisher for the free review copy!Patiently educating a clueless white person about race is draining. It takes all your powers of persuasion. Because its more than a chat about race. Its ontological. Its like explaining to a person why you exist, or why you feel pain, or why your reality is distinct from their reality. Except its even trickier than that. Because the person has all of Western history, politics, literature, and mass culture on their side, proving that you dont Thanks to the publisher for the free review copy!“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.”Minor Feelings is a collection of essays reflecting on the Asian American experience, racism, art, friendship, and more. Hong is able to articulate the feelings of marginalized groups that endure racism and micro-aggressions in such a sharp and brilliant way. There are so many excellent quotes to pull from this book!I will say it was more focused on art than I was expecting, just based on the synopsis and other reviews I’ve seen (it makes sense since Hong is a poet). I also assumed going in that most of the essays would be focused on Hong’s personal experiences, but a couple of the essays were more biographical in nature of other Asian American artists. Still definitely worth a read, highly recommend!
    more
  • Annabel Wang
    January 1, 1970
    I was so so excited to read this book! It wasn't as amazing or insightful as I had hoped but there were some good nuggets in there that I thought made this book worth a 4 instead of 3. My greatest issues were that her writing is relatively disorganized (like there isn't a key takeaway in each section). This makes the book much longer than it needs to be. It also puts her book in this confusing status of memoir or critical essays about Asian American identity - neither of which it does well. The I was so so excited to read this book! It wasn't as amazing or insightful as I had hoped but there were some good nuggets in there that I thought made this book worth a 4 instead of 3. My greatest issues were that her writing is relatively disorganized (like there isn't a key takeaway in each section). This makes the book much longer than it needs to be. It also puts her book in this confusing status of memoir or critical essays about Asian American identity - neither of which it does well. The only thing saving this book were the few good nuggets of insight I gained. I wish she shifted this book more towards a memoir rather than trying to sell it as a way to speak for the collective.
    more
  • 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)]
    more
  • Scarlet
    January 1, 1970
    Some essays are stronger than others, but overall this is a very powerful book. I loved how the author handled so many delicate topics in a way that showed that she herself didn't have all the answers. It honestly made me think and reflect on so many everyday parts of life, and I found myself sending quotes to friends and at unrelated points in my day reflecting on some of the points the author made.
    more
  • 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?? its 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.
    more
  • 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
  • Kate (kate_reads_)
    January 1, 1970
    Minor Feelings is a collection of essays exploring different topics around being Asian American. Having seen some amazing own voices reviews - I wanted to pick this up and bumped it to the top of my list when a friend asked if she could borrow it after me.I really appreciated learning about the authors experiences and perspective and that is what I was reading it for so it was successful in that way. I am so glad that I see many reviewers saying how seen they felt in the authors words. The Minor Feelings is a collection of essays exploring different topics around being Asian American. Having seen some amazing own voices reviews - I wanted to pick this up and bumped it to the top of my list when a friend asked if she could borrow it after me.I really appreciated learning about the author’s experiences and perspective and that is what I was reading it for so it was successful in that way. I am so glad that I see many reviewers saying how seen they felt in the author’s words. The writing style and some of the topics around art and poetry are not my interests or expertise - so some of those parts were a little harder for me to read but I saw the value in how it all came together. Thank you to One World for the free copy of this book. I’m glad that I read it and know parts will stick with me for a long time.
    more
Write a review