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As racial animosity threatens to reach yet another boiling point, Cathy Park Hong’s book “Minor Feelings” forces readers to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves and their country.
Although it debuted before anti-Asian crimes made national news, Hong’s collection of essays are timeless and worth revisiting to make sense of the dizzying headlines.
The essays articulate experiences that Asian Americans share but often don’t speak of.
“In the popular imagination, Asian Americans inhabit a vague purgatorial status,” Hong writes. “Distrusted by African Americans, ignored by whites, unless they’re being used by whites to keep the black man down.”
The book is a masterful blend of memoir, historical context and critical analysis. You can easily connect to this intimate read, which still rigorously investigates the history of anti-Asian racism and the threat of “minor feelings.”
“(Minor feelings are) the racialized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric and therefore untelegenic,” Hong writes. “It is built from sediments of everyday experience and the irritant of having one’s perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed.”
“Minor feelings,” as Hong terms it, embodies the Asian American experience, but is not exclusive to that experience. Any marginalized person can relate to it.
This sort of pressure spawns the most uncomfortable yet necessary revelation of the book.
“Racial self-hatred is seeing yourself the way whites see you, which turns you into your own worst enemy,” Hong wrote. “Your only defense is to be hard on yourself, which becomes compulsive, and therefore a comfort, to peck yourself to death.”
Hong lays these emotions out not only to bring them out of hiding, but to break a vicious cycle. By internalizing racism, Asian Americans unknowingly oppress others and themselves.
If you can relate to the frustrations of having to explain or defend your humanity, read this right away.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars