As first posted on feministbookclub.com
I’m not sure what I expected with Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning. Maybe something that was going to be a general reflection on what it means to be Asian in America. Something cool to read for AAPI Heritage Month.
What I got was so much more than that.
Cathy Park Hong created art so exposed and so raw. She intimately shares her deepest feelings of self-loathing created through seeing herself through the eyes of white supremacy. She “borrows” from the lives of others– other artists and other minoritized identities– to reckon with her own feelings of subjugation, and because she had to borrow from their lives to talk about her own.
One of my favorite passages is about Asian Americans being next in line to be white.
“When I hear the phrase “Asians are next in line to be white,” I replace the word “white” with “disappear.” Asians are next in line to disappear. We are reputed to be so accomplished, and so law-abiding, we will disappear into this country’s amnesiac fog. We will not be the power but become absorbed by power, not share the power of whites but be stooges to a white ideology that exploited our ancestors.”
This passage impacted me deeply because I kept thinking about my relationship with Asian Americans as a Black person. Oftentimes, Black people hold this sentiment because we see so many examples of “the Model Minority” exerting anti-Black racism and serving as accomplices to white supremacy. Cathy Park Hong eloquently addresses Asian American’s relationship with other people of color through her engagement with Richard Pryor’s comedy.
But, as she addresses, aligning Asian Americans to whiteness is erasing and dismissing their experiences of oppression. Violence against Asian Americans did not start with the pandemic.
Cathy Park Hong’s poignet account of finding a therapist, using humor and art, female friendships, and her relationship to her mother show a side of the Asian American experience that isn’t widely discussed. She does so in a poetic style that is all her own.
I gained so much from this collection of essays. The hype is definitely valid.