I don’t normally read non-fiction, but when I saw the title of this book, I knew I had to check it out. Minor Feelings is a thought provoking series of essays tackling elements of the Asian American experience.
Asian Americans inhabit a purgatorial status: neither white enough nor black enough, unmentioned in most conversations about racial identity. In the popular imagination, Asian Americans are all high-achieving professionals. But in reality, this is the most economically divided group in the country, a tenuous alliance of people with roots from South Asia to East Asia to the Pacific Islands, from tech millionaires to service industry laborers. How do we speak honestly about the Asian American condition—if such a thing exists?
Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively confronts this thorny subject, blending memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong’s theory of “minor feelings.” As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity.
With sly humor and a poet’s searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This intimate and devastating book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and artmaking, and to family and female friendship. A radically honest work of art, Minor Feelings forms a portrait of one Asian American psyche—and of a writer’s search to both uncover and speak the truth.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I’m not actually sure where to start this review. Minor Feelings had passages that made me pause. As a Chinese American there were similarities and differences to my experiences and Hong’s. Not only did Minor Feelings make me examine some of my own memories, but see Hong’s perspective. As an adoptee, I am recommending this to my fellow family members because of the way Hong is able to succinctly phrase things that have been swirling around my own mind. These essays are easy to digest while also having an academic edge to them.
Minor Feelings is also a memoir that I kept thinking about after finishing. There are moments that are heartbreaking, if not un-suprising, and as I grow older I find I’m more attuned to my feelings and experiences. I can see the ways our experiences parallel, diverge, and converge. Whether it be moments of self-internalized racism or her observations about her immigrant family, Minor Feelings is complex and compelling.