- Korean and Korean American Life Writing in Hawai'i: From the Land of the Morning Calm to Hawai'i Nei by Heui-Yung Park
Heui-Yung Park's Korean and Korean American Life Writing in Hawai'i: From the Land of the Morning Calm to Hawai'i Nei is an exhaustive and meticulous overview of the way Koreans in Hawai'i have represented themselves through written and oral histories. Park observes how Korean identity negotiates language, culture, and notions of belonging through modes of life writing by closely reading works by the Korean immigrants who arrived in Hawai'i during the early 1900s and moving on to discuss writing by ongoing generations and waves of settlers. Working with the understanding that Korean American literature does not consider diasporic Koreans in Hawai'i, Park asserts that scholars have elided Hawai'i altogether as a site of Korean literary production. As Park argues that Korean American literary criticism primarily concerns literature written about Koreans in the continental US, this book bridges Korean studies and Asian American studies with the field of life writing studies—its primary intervention being how it accounts for texts not only written in English but in the Korean language as well.
Park argues that the umbrella term "Korean American literature" thus far has primarily accounted for fictional texts without having extended its purview to include life writing. Grounded in Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson's Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives, Park turns to Korean autobiographies coming out of Hawai'i as they include various literary modes such as lyric poetry, memoir, and oral histories "whose subject is a life that has been lived and felt by the person who speaks" (xiii). Likewise, Park follows Smith and Watson's underscoring of how life writing can be politicized through acts of autobiography, observing how Korean diasporic subjects articulate their cultural identities and national allegiances while also attempting to legitimate their belonging to where they have come from and where they now settle. Therefore, this book moves between how what Park terms "Hawai'i Koreans" negotiate both their ethnic Korean identity and their local identity by exploring the way rootedness is mutable and fluid. [End Page 446]
The book is organized into three parts, moving from first-generation Koreans to the third generation while also observing the in-between categories by including analyses of works by 1.5- and 2.5-generation Koreans. Including works by early and later immigrants, this study is framed by the plantation era of Hawai'i and the arrival of Korean laborers as well as migration after the Immigration Reform Act of 1965. From discussing Japan's colonization of Korea, Korean "picture brides" in Hawai'i, and movements for Korea's decolonization and independence to discussing religious movements, assimilation, and return migrations, the breadth of Park's scope is comprehensive and ambitious. She examines how immigration, diaspora, and settlement are imbricated and ongoing processes that construe Hawai'i as a symbolic, liminal ground between the continental US and Korea.
Part one of the book examines poems published in Korean-language newspapers that have spanned from 1904 to 1970 in Hawai'i, with over twenty periodicals published during this time. Park examines how diasporic Koreans have reconciled with their "foreign environment" while also maintaining a sense of collective Korean identity that began to affiliate with the "adopted land" (xvii). The second part of the book explores work by second-generation writers attempting to articulate their "local" identity and "how they come to terms with their inherited diasporic self that resembles, yet differs, from that of the immigrant pioneers," with Park suggesting that through life writing this generation has begun to mobilize an alternative claim to belong not only to their ancestral home but their "place of residence" (xix). The last part of the book continues this work by observing how third-generation writers "seek to establish their own sense of who they are" (xix), while also...