An Asian American Reckoning
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • ONE OF TIME’S 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE • A ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged, and utterly original exploration of Asian American consciousness
“Brilliant . . . To read this book is to become more human.”—Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen
In development as a television series starring and adapted by Greta Lee • One of Time’s 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year • Named One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, New Statesman, BuzzFeed, Esquire, The New York Public Library, and Book Riot
Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative—and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world.
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. Minor feelings are not small, they’re dissonant—and in their tension Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her.
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 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.
Praise for Minor Feelings
“Hong begins her new book of essays with a bang. . . .The essays wander a variegated terrain of memoir, criticism and polemic, oscillating between smooth proclamations of certainty and twitches of self-doubt. . . . Minor Feelings is studded with moments [of] candor and dark humor shot through with glittering self-awareness.”—The New York Times
“Hong uses her own experiences as a jumping off point to examine race and emotion in the United States.”—Newsweek
“Powerful . . . [Hong] brings together memoiristic personal essay and reflection, historical accounts and modern reporting, and other works of art and writing, in order to amplify a multitude of voices and capture Asian America as a collection of contradictions. She does so with sharp wit and radical transparency.”—Salon
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In her brilliant first essay collection, poet Cathy Park Hong, the child of Korean immigrants, shifts seamlessly between her personal experiences and big-picture social observations. Minor Feelings digs into issues like racial identity, self-hatred, and ethnic stereotyping with a lyrical and sensitive touch. Hong’s also got a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor—it’s not surprising to learn that her approach to combatting racism is inspired by Richard Pryor’s defiant stand-up comedy. Whether she’s exploring sweeping topics like America’s history of institutional anti-Asian racism or Asian artists’ consistent lack of representation or zeroing in on her own experiences with cultural bias or the time her therapist broke up with her, Hong’s intimate style lets us live in her world for a while. If your world is already like hers, you’ll feel seen; if it isn’t, well, you’ll see.
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.
Poignant and Relevant
Minor Feelings is raw as it is candid. The writing is stellar and cuts to the reader’s bone marrow of emotions. Because of its brilliance it’s on my list of suggested summer reading for my students. Write on Cathy Park Hong.
I just finished the last page and had to take a moment to cry. One of the most technically satisfyingly and emotionally raw books I’ve ever read. Thank you Cathy for creating this.
Some bits are poignant, but some of it is pure tripe. I wish I hadn’t given her my money - it would have been better to have. borrowed it from the library.