Book Spotlight: Minor Feelings

Updated: Jul 15

Written by: Joshua Lim

Published: July 10, 2022.

Cathy Park Hong expertly captures the history and reality of race relations specifically but not solely as they relate to Asian Americans in her timely and ground-breaking book “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning.”


Longtime ACENet members and event attendees may recognize this book as it is the first book to be spotlighted and was featured in our first online event, “Where Are You REALLY From?,” at the onset of pandemic. A clip of Cathy Park Hong exploring the concept of the model minority myth, its effects, and role in her book from an episode of Yale University’s Benjamin and Barbara Lecture Series had been featured on the ACENet website (see full video below). Recently, Minor Feelings was included as one of the resources in ACENet's Resource for Educators: Asian Canadian Perspectives. In May of 2021 news broke that Minor Feelings is being made into a TV series, with "Russian Doll" co-star Greta Lee as its writer, executive producer, and star, according to Deadline. The adaptation rights have been optioned by the production company A24.


Minor Feelings: The Story

Cathy Park Hong provides seven essays about racial consciousness in America and her mixed feelings. She draws from and reflects on her experiences as the daughter of Korean immigrants growing up in the Los Angeles area during the 1980s and 1990s. The book is part memoir, party history, and part cultural criticism (White, 2021).


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 humour 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.”

Minor Feelings: Classroom Use

As a poet and feminist, Hong starts with her intimate lived experiences and zooms out to broader explorations of racism. "She employs the first-person modular essay, offering facts, vignettes, observations, and reflections in short, relatively disconnected sections that layer and build upon each other, making space for insight and revelations in the gaps between the sections—possibly a prose form as close to poetry as you can get" (Beyer, 2022). This stylistic choice allows "Hong to refuse tidy conclusions and juxtapose ideas for surprising and immediate revelations that evoke, and distort, cover, and uncover her subject matter"(Beyer, 2022). Minor Feelings deals with the messy and complex world we live in, addresses the various intersections of life, takes us past the binary, and provides a model for how to grapple with it all and move forward. This non-fiction book is most suitable for senior students and older. It provides a great starting point for discussions on topics of racism, diversity, equity, and inequality (see the University of Hartford's planned virtual discussion on July 26 and August 2).


Two activities with three levels by TeachingBooks. Found here.


Discussion guide by Purdue University. Found here.


The following video is from Yale University's Benjamin and Barbara Lecture Series featuring Cathy Park Hong and Maurice Samuels (2020). The clip formerly featured on the website in which Hong explores the concept of model minority starts at 15 minutes and 28 seconds.


Minor Feelings: Author & About

Cathy Park Hong is a poet, writer, and professor at Rutgers-Newark University. She is the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. In 2021, she was named one of Time's 100 most influential people in the world. Her poems have been published in Poetry, The New York Times, The Paris Review, McSweeney's, Boston Review, and other journals.

http://www.cathyparkhong.com/


Minor Feelings, was published in Spring 2020 by One World/Random House (US) and Profile Books (UK).


One World is an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House, the world’s largest trade book publisher. The mission of ONE WORLD, is to provide a home for authors—novelists, essayists, memoirists, poets, journalists, thinkers, activists, and creative artists unconstrained by genre—who seek to challenge the status quo, subvert dominant narratives, and give us new language to understand our past, present, and future. Their growing list includes some of the most talented writers in the world, from National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners to award-winning humanitarians and groundbreaking activists. One World writers represent voices from across the spectrum of humanity telling critical, universally important, and compelling stories about a changing world.

https://www.oneworldlit.com/


Profile Books was founded on April Fool’s Day in 1996 by Andrew Franklin and Stephen Brough to publish stimulating non-fiction in a wide range of fields. Looking for inventive books, powerful voices and lively thought, early bestsellers include "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynne Truss and the "New Scientist ‘Last Word’" series. They are a lifelong home for authors and create books that surprise, delight and endure. Their mission is unchanged: to be a fearless publisher of a diverse range of distinctive books, of the highest quality, written by the best authors in their field, and to remain a beacon of independent publishing.

https://profilebooks.com/


Minor Feelings: Awards

You really don't need to rely on my suggestions for this one as it has won and been considered for so of the most prestigious literary awards:

  • Bestseller, New York Times

  • Winner, Nation Book Critics Circle Award 2020

  • Joint Winner, Time's 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year 2020

  • Winner, Booklist's Best Memoirs of the Year 2020

  • Longlist, Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction 2021

  • Finalist, General Nonfiction Pulitzer Prize 2021

  • Joint Winner, Fortune’s Best books of 2021

  • Winner, American Book Award 2021


References

Beyer, T. (2022). On minor feelings: An Asian American reckoning by Cathy Park Hong. The Georgia Review. Retrieved from https://thegeorgiareview.com/posts/on-minor-feelings-an-asian-american-reckoning-by-cathy-park-hong/

White, P. (2021). Greta Lee to star in, Write & EP Series adaptation of Cathy Park Hong's book 'Minor feelings' with A24. Deadline. Retrieved from https://deadline.com/2021/05/greta-lee-to-star-write-ep-tv-adaptation-of-cathy-park-hongs-book-minor-feelings-a24-1234750565/



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