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Younger-Generation Korean Experiences in the United States: Personal Narratives on Ethic and Racial Identities

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Younger-Generation Korean Experiences in the United States: Personal Narratives on Ethic and Racial Identities

By Pyong Gap Min

Lexington Books: June 11, 2014

Reviewed by Justin Randolph

Pyong Gap Min published a novel, that brings a lot of racist and nationalistic views into a society blinded by its own rationale. These stories that she shares between generations of young Koreans in America is riveting and very scholarly based on the way she has combined their experiences together. Generations are determined by the era in which they are born into, the novel is split accounts of two major generations that can relate and also form a barrier all at the same time. Koreans make up 9.5% of the total Asian population in the United States, a very underwhelming number compared to the rest of its demographic family…But why forget about them and push their struggles aside?  4 out of every 100 suicides are Korean American, this is a mortifying fact that the novel brings up, something that a society driven on the freedoms of man that we seem to skip over as we tear down anything and anyone from another country.

Throughout Pyong’s writings we take in 13 personal accounts written by the two generations of Korean Americans trying to tie correlations together of struggles and identity between them. Generations of Korean Americans are not only very riveting throughout the writings but very relatable to other societies in America. The first generation of Koreans outlined in the novel are kids that grew up from the 1960’s. This generation is already favored to not only be a shift in political and philosophical nature, but struggled with war and the ever growing work forces of America. Correlations can be drawn between both the younger and older generation but really, it is all based on the fact of who’s perception and who is experiencing that said struggle. Throughout we see a lot of racism and xenophobia in their establishments of community, when in reality they all left their home nation to experience a better and freedom based lifestyle. The book does a fantastic job in allowing us to see these communities be torn apart, but in relation it is the efforts of the first generation she highlights, that seem to be a hinderance to themselves. Working and social class are to the writer, seem to be divided by a very thin line and not necessarily defined. Poverty and Socioeconomics really drive the novel in either direction, whether the reader finds it as an issue based on racism or the pure fact that it is ones own fault. Many Koreans on both of the generational spectrum agree that the higher their social class, the easier it was to find their social identities.

One social account is one of the first generations having no options on what neighborhood they were raised in, giving the reader a bias on the account as if they were a slave to this madness. “I think part of it was growing up in such an overwhelmingly white suburban neighborhood as I did in Ohio, I had no choice but to hang out with white people.”(p.25) This identity crisis is revolved around the basis on their freedom. According to many accounts, if they had an actual option to hang around any peoples they wanted it could have been an easier and more fulfilling lifestyle. If anything, the novel does a great job and making the readers feel guilty in a way for the writings of these Korean Americans. Arguing the point on whether this book is really insulting the “White” race or accrediting them for allowing Korean Americans to even become a part of their society. Factual stories in the novel allow us to relive what we as white American children always joked about, seeing the “Karate Kid” or that every Asian is the same. This is one of the strongest correlations seen through the entire novel. At this point there is an uncertain uneasiness that rests within the reader, that stereotyping is prevalent in the past and the current versions of the United States.

Younger generations of Korean Americans throughout the novel, also struggle throughout. All facing the same racism, the same socioeconomic issues…besides education opportunities. This is one thing that could almost be added as an enlightened aspect to this generational gap, this can also be influenced by what South Korea has gone through in its own personal struggle as a country. After the Korean War, we see a lot of the first generational American Koreans separate themselves from being nationalistic to very “American”. Throughout we see stories and accounts about how Koreans tried to become as American as humanly possible, rather than the younger generation focus on more education and open thought of the persons they should become. “Originally, my only connections to the Korean community were through my parents and their roles in the Korean community.” (P. 170) This accord is wonderful, it gives us as the reader a very different perspective on what it truly feels like to be lost in a sea of American culture and trying to separate from your parents and yet still stay true to your racial background.

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"Younger-Generation Korean Experiences in the United States: Personal Narratives on Ethic and Racial Identities." EssaysForStudent.com. 10, 2017. Accessed 10, 2017. https://www.essaysforstudent.com/Miscellaneous/Younger-Generation-Korean-Experiences-in-the-United-States/107645.html.