Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong is an essay collection from a Korean-American writer who feels her voice, as well as the voices from other Asian Americans mostly women, hasn’t been fully understood on purpose.
The author describes “minor feelings” as the feelings nonwhite people develop about their own cultures based on the stereotypes they see in America and believing those stereotypes. She uses life experiences to convey those feelings, and the not-so-minor impact, that she had to rework and create her own philosophies about race and ethnicity in America.
Growing up in Los Angeles first in the Koreatown section, she discusses going to school where the Asian girls seemed to adopt the Latina and Black teenage girl culture they saw in the media and other times when she wrestled with how Asian identity was depicted in the mainstream. Her experience, for example, with the Los Angeles 1992 uprising barely exists since her family already moved out of Koreatown at the time, living the suburban American dream. From what she saw in the media, she said she felt torn knowing the Black community endured racism from the Korean shop owners in the area and those same shop owners becoming targets for destruction during the uprising.
Another story that stands out and runs long in the book surrounds Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, a Korean-American writer and artist who was murdered in 1982. The author describes learning about Theresa and her most famous work, Dictée. But the author worries that Theresa’s life being cut short at 31 after a man rapes and murders her in New York City overwhelmed her potential future. The author also describes the frustration that Theresa’s murder failed to gain much attention in the media as Theresa is just known as an “Oriental” woman and what happened to her fades. She goes into additional detail with describing the court case that wasn’t covered much in the media and interviewing Theresa’s brothers and friends for more insight into keeping her legacy alive.
Overall, the essay collection is informative. What she chooses to focus on is interesting and thought-provoking though some parts are more memorable than others.