Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning is a timely collection of essays and part memoir by poet Cathy Park Hong. She boldly shares her intelligent, thought-provoking arguments and insightful thoughts on race and gender from her perspective as a Korean American woman. She uses her life’s experiences, cultural criticism, history and events to give a voice to a wider Asian American experience. She explores her relationship to the English language, her feeling of shame and depression, her poetry and art making, her relationship with family and friends in a search to both uncover and speak the truth. The essays where she shared her female friendships did lose me and I didn’t find it as interesting as the rest of the essays.
She packs in a lot here, and at times, it felt a little heavy-handed, and it took me a bit of work to understand and take it all in. I took pages of notes and then had to go back and reread a few parts to understand what she was saying, and I still feel a bit went over my head. However, I think I got out enough to see Cathy Park Hong has “some scores to settle first with this country, with how we have been scripted” and to consider the effects of racism against Asian Americans. To challenge those stereotyped scripted lies, white people use to dismiss “minor feelings” and spare ourselves from tears (white tears).
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 and dismissed.”
Things Cathy Park Hong challenges that stood out for me
How Asian Americans are put in a stereotyped box created by a white-dominant society and argues that many see themselves through the lens of whiteness and believing the lies told about their own racial identity.
“The lie that Asians have it good is so insidious that even now as I write, I’m shadowed by the thought that I didn’t have it bad compared to others. But racial trauma is not a competitive sport.”
The fear of the white reign of terror felt by Asian Americans that “can be invisible and cumulative, chipping at one’s worth until there is nothing left” When” minor feelings” are shown, they are “interpreted as hostile, ungrateful… belligerent.” and make white people feel uncomfortable.
How those scripted thoughts “they have it good” and stereotypes add feelings of shame.
“The flip side of innocence is shame.”
“It’s a neurotic, self-inflicting wound.”
White tears – “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 highly recommend it, especially now to end “white innocence,” check our “white tears” and see the pain of Asian American. I stand by Asian Women!