I just finished reading the book Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong and it's filled with the hardest hitting truths about Asian America that I've seen anywhere. This book doesn't hold back.
If you're Asian American, pick up a copy now. If you're not, pick up a copy now.
Tomorrow, I'll pluck select quotes from the book and analyze them. But today, I wanted to be in my feelings.
To be Asian American is to have your experience steamrolled into the model minority. You cannot be sad or hurt because you are "successful". You cannot voice your pain because you’re, at this point, "basically white". Asians are "doing well" they say.
Minor Feelings is a book about dismissal and erasure. Self hate, intergenerational trauma, colonialism, war, lynching, rape - are all forgotten from the Asian American story.
By writing this book, Cathy seems to say "Not on my watch".
Throughout the book, she speaks truth to issues so frequently ignored, and by doing so, she gives Asian Americans a voice to build upon. In the future, we will cite her lines when we cannot find the words of our own.
But Asians are quiet not simply because we lack the vocabulary. A secondary reason is that whiteness is so comfortable speaking for us. Whiteness whitesplains the Asian experience, dousing our stories - no, drowning our stories - in bleach. The result is something pale and uniform, and has been cleansed of the blood stains and dirt, but also stripped of its original color and complexity. The final result reeks. Bleach is, after all, an industrial grade sterilizer, a chemical irritant.
Times are changing. Perhaps those born on the coasts, where a critical mass of Asians Americans live, are beginning to find a racial consciousness that makes young people proud of their heritage and empowered to share their stories.
And while I sense this is happening, I also still see meekness. Fear. The "nail that sticks up gets hammered down" kind of mentality. It's like a prisoner's dilemma, where silence has forever been the dominant strategy.
But Cathy Park Hong has stood up. She is the nail that was supposed to be hammered down. And her vulnerability paves the way.
There is so much left to do - Minor Feelings is written with a certain haste, a certain realization that right now, the iron is hot. Parts of the book feel open ended, certain issues not fully addressed. Cathy is deeply aware they exist, even leaving observations and quotes in her essays unanalyzed, as if inviting you to add your own story.
The Asian American experience is to be caged but told you are not caged. Hong calls bullshit, turns off the gas light, and invites us to cooperate with her, to tear down this Prisoner's Dilemma with truth - and unity.