Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

Readers agree that Cathy Park Hong’s anthology, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, is unique. As an intimate memoir of Hong’s Asian American experiences and as a critique of society’s biases and prejudices, Hong’s prose is the embodiment of ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.’

Where some audiences don’t agree is the purpose of the prose. Some reviews criticize the work for being too historical or for not offering an ‘easy solution’ to the ingrown racism. These comments confuse me, to be honest. History is an unavoidable topic when referring to any thing that has to do with social culture. Society grows like a person; one’s past shapes their current form. Not only is the history that Hong shares in her anthology necessary to feed her experiences, it sadly also fills a gap in most public educations. If Hong removed all of the history lessons from her book, her text would be less accessible. Which brings me to the ‘easy solution’ critique, to start, there is not and never will be an easy solution to society’s prejudices and biases. However, by offering this text—with its history and perceptions made accessible to a wide variety of people—to a large audience, Hong is providing an ‘easy’ first step. All you have to do is read this book to begin to acknowledge an Asian American experience.

Reading 200 pages is not difficult. There is no excuse for skipping this step. Especially when Hong made her work so digestible by utilizing common situations, stories, and settings to showcase her life. A good chunk of this work takes place at Oberlin College or the University of Iowa or simply surrounds academia. With millions of students attending some sort of higher education program and consuming media that focuses around the ‘college experience,’ Hong is able to highlight her encounters in a comfortable setting.

Additionally, Hong writes with a conversational tone. She doesn’t judge her background or others. She simply questions. It is up to the reader to come away from this work with the inquisitive nature that spurred Hong to write it. So yes, there is no solution nor answer, no definitive experience for all Asian Americans. You can’t expect that. As titled, this is a “reckoning.” It is a calculation of Hong’s experiences and an estimation of others.

I wish I could offer follow-up texts to this book, but this the only one I’ve read so far. I might come back and edit this post later on with some recommendations. For now, I can say that from my brief search, Barnes & Noble has the best selection of “Explore More” books related to this one.


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