cover image Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

Cathy Park Hong. One World, $27 (224p) ISBN 978-1-984820-36-5

In this blistering essay collection, poet Hong (Engine Empire) interrogates America’s racial categories to explore the “under-reported” Asian-American experience. Hong, a child of Korean immigrants, was born in Los Angeles’s Koreatown, but moved from the neighborhood before the 1992 riots upended the area. Her topics include personal experiences, from learning English as a second language and obsessing over her scented Hello Kitty–branded erasers as a child, to mining the repertoire of Richard Pryor as a young woman entering the stand-up scene. She is both angry and wryly funny when examining her struggles with depression, hemifacial spasm disorder, and poetry peers who dismissed her first book as “hack identity politics.” Assessing perceptions of Asian-Americans as “next in line to be white,” as one man tells her, she observes that in fact they have the “highest income disparity out of any racial group” in the country. Her confrontational prose maintains a poet’s lyricism in “The End of White Innocence,” which recalls a childhood “spent looking into the menagerie of white children.” Combining cultural criticism and personal exploration, Hong constructs a trenchant examination of race in America. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb.)