Drifting House: Response


  • The title story in the collection, “Drifting House,” tells of two young brothers attempting to escape from North Korea to China. Why did Lee select that story as the title story? What does the title refer to?

When I first read it I wasn’t exactly sure. The story was a particularly good story. But now I kind of see having reflected and read the interview with her. For one the character in the story refers to himself as a drifting house for his younger sister because he bares her on his back. But also in the interview the author refers to drifting house as a way to describe the feeling of home in the heart of both refugees and immigrants. Where is your true home if you are living in America after growing up in Korea. Where is your true home if you were born in North Korea?

  • What concerns and emotions unite the stories in this collection? If you had to describe the book to a friend in a sentence or two, what would you say?

There’s a lot of surrender. Surrender to what seems like the end of life or what actually is the end of life. People feeling like “nothing will ever change again. I am cursed.” But sometimes the stories are about discovering hope in that bleakness. Usually discovering something within themselves they’ve buried. Or something buried by someone they love.

If I had to pitch this book to a friend I would say. “Well written, very depressing, short story collection.”

  • Certain characters appear in more than one story; identify these stories and characters. How do the narratives influence each other and alter your understanding of those characters? Why did the author choose to connect the stories in this way?

I didn’t realize these stories were directly connected at all until reading this question. One that I realize now is that “at the edge of the world” and “drifting house” are directly connected. Which much more explicitly establishes the history of mark’s parents. And specifically his father’s relationship with the supernatural and family.

  • Drifting House focuses specifically on the Korean and Korean American experience. If this setting is foreign to you, does it make it harder to connect to the stories? If the setting is familiar to you, does Lee’s representation strike you as accurate?

It is foreign to me yet the characters don’t feel so removed from me that I can’t empathize with them. For one Krys wrote the book for an American and Korean audience. So the stories do explain a bit about the history of life in Korea. Also many of the characters are grappling with specifically Korean situations but experiencing emotions and pain that should be familiar to anyone.

  • In “The Goose Father,” the narrator makes reference (see pp. 83 and 87) to the formalities of interpersonal relationships between older and younger Koreans, formalities that seem to restrict comfort and honesty. Do similar formalities exist in North America?

Not really. I do feel a certain kind of kinship with my peers that I don’t share with people or different generations. But that is not the only kind of kinship I am comfortable with. I feel it’s percectly normal for people to have friends from many different age groups as soon as you’re out of high school.  This story was interesting because at the beginning I didn’t know anything about those age dynamics. But they became apparent throughout the story.

  • The scars of war and deprivation mark the older characters and influence their behavior. Find two examples of this in the stories.


  • Many of the stories are challenging, even disturbing, because of the various types of domestic violence exhibited and their casual acceptance by the characters. How did you respond to this?


  • In “A Temporary Marriage,” Mrs. Shin says, “I prefer a world without men” (p. 3), a comment that could easily be echoed by other women in the book. Which of the stories best illustrates the limitations and frustrations of being female in Korean culture? Do you believe that similar issues challenge American women?


  • How has this collection of stories altered your perceptions of Korean culture specifically and immigrants in general? Was there one particular character whose experience struck a chord with you?


  • Thinking of your own racial, religious, or cultural history, what similarities can you find with the characters in the stories? What have you overcome and what do you value? What has been troubling to you and what makes you proud?


Filipinx America: Final Thoughts

I don’t think I really understood the magnitude of Filipinx peoples cultural impact of the united states (specifically the west coast and Washington!) until this week.

Even though each week I learn a lot about the role different APIA group played in the cultural history of the United States, it seems to me that a lot (not enough) of Chinese American and Japanese American contributions are visible in our pop culture through Kung Fu movies, Chinese Restaurants, Akira Kurosawa films, and sushi restaurants.

But learning that Washington state has an important history of Filipinx immigration really blew my mind. I’m really happy that I chose Filinix America to report on. I really feel as though I’ve become able to see something that was in plain sight but I had inadvertently ignored.

The role Pinoy’s had in shaping Boxing, Seattle, and Comics is immeasurable. And the history of Philippines as a nation, and a geography of peoples is tragic and inspiring in itself, as well as enlightening of the imperialistic tyranny of the United States.


(and Peter Bacho is awesome)

Is ‘Come See the Paradise’ Propaganda?

Image result for come see the paradise

I feel conflicted here. While ‘Come See the Paradise’ could be educational to people who have never heard of the concentration camps or know little about them and, as Chico pointed out, might be reluctant to watch a film like ‘Rabbit in the Moon,’ its didactic storytelling slips in some troubling ideas.

The white savior narcissism of Dennis Quaid’s character aside, the film is full of American apologetics and racial stereotyping.  Lucy is an all american girl with the one tragic flaw of being born Japanese. While Dennis Quaid loves her and makes a big show of accepting her despite her race, he consistently punishes her for any display of Japanese-ness that does not fall within his idealized notion of Japanese American Culture.

Lucy herself is equally ashamed of her culture, her interactions with Japanese characters that have not been sufficiently Americanized are consistently negative. Her mother and father shun her for marrying a Irish american man instead of being sold to a caricature of an older Japanese man. Her father down on his luck after being captured and tortured by the american military (the violence of which is very downplayed by the film) Joins his family in the camp and is shunned and assaulted by young Japanese american men. One of these men, Lucy’s brother, is portrayed as violent and irrational for resisting the injustice inflicted on him by his country. While Lucy’s brother who remained loyal to the united states is portrayed as level headed and heroic for fighting and dying for the United States military industrial complex.

Though the camps are shown and consistently explained to be unjust and unconstitutional at their core, the conditions of the camps are surprisingly homey. Every cabin is decorated, there is singing, dancing, sports, and work. Mentions of food theft by camp officials are raised, and then dismissed by Lucy’s loyal brother as legitimate shortages. White officers are shown to enforce unjust rules imposed on prisoners, and then they relent without any violence when confronted with Lucy’s rigid moral backbone. In fact the only threat to the life of a Japanese American prisoner shown is other Japanese Americans, specifically those who are allied with resistance to the United States. They are shown starting fights, throwing rocks, and jumping innocent J.A.C.L. members in the night.

Meanwhile, Dennis Quaid’s feeble attempt at asserting his loyalty to Japanese American prisoners is met by an understanding and seemingly goodhearted Commanding Officer who says “maybe they were safer in prisons?” A stance that is never fully combated by Quaid.

In the end Lucy is allowed to continue her life without much trauma from her imprisonment. Everyone who held her back from her true calling as an american housewife is dead or overseas! Yippee! Now she can tell her daughter that America only dropped one atomic bomb on Japan. It may seem like a small inaccuracy but I feel it is symptomatic of the essential message of the movie:

“America is sorry for it’s treatment of Japanese Americans…

… but…            …like, really it wasn’t that bad anyway?

Most Americans liked Japanese people. They’d probably fuck them if they had the chance. and also Japan was like really tacky anyway… and weird… like SO weird… who would want to be Japanese? Probably weird violent sexist people.

So… Sorry? Sorry that you feel like America wronged you, Japanese Americans.

And if you’re a white person watching this movie, you’re probably cool and not racist even a little bit, like sexy Dennis Quaid.

Who is even responsible for that weird “internment camp” idea? because definitely none of the white people were. probably Satan and weird strangers you don’t even know.

You’re fine now though. Satan’s dead. So you don’t have to think about your privilege or inherent biases any more. Racism is something that happened in the past.


Now go sign up for the American Military.”

Talking Points: Seventeen Syllables

  1. I like the focus on the experience of Japanese American Women. Their intersectional identity can make their struggle uniquely invisible. But based on the reading last week women’s issues are really important to discuss with Asian American issues.
  2. I’ve never felt an intense urge to gamble all my money away. So when I read stories about men gambling their families money away it’s really difficult to empathize with the men at all. What’s going through their heads?
  3. What was it like for people with mental health issues in the camps? The story Miss Sassagawara makes her being sent away for treatment sound like a good thing but I feel I rarely read stories where that is the case especially at that time and in such a racialized period specifically.
  4. I’m not one who usually thinks ill of marriage as an institution. But the reading material in this class makes me feel like it is almost never a good idea to get married and have kids.

Talking Points: Asian Americans in the Twenty-First Century

  1. Something I thought was interesting about Dale’s first interview was how conservative he seemed. I certainly didn’t expect anyone in this collection to talk about how great america is. I suppose it’s hard to really appreciate it when neither me nor my parents have known anything else.
  2. Wow, Ark Chin really went through a lot. It’s interesting that he spoke about what he had to do to have “earned my place” (p.19) like what have I ever done to earn my place.
  3. It sounds so stressful to be at a school where you don’t speak the language. Also it’s interesting that Hoan didn’t feel any different growing up, but when he attended college he began to experience racism. Almost like college then was what the internet is now, exposure to the subconscious of a nation, that isn’t filtered through familiarity.
  4. Susim talks alot about feeling “culturally inferior” growing up and at college. It’s interesting that her parents and other older immigrants treated Black Americans poorly but she felt that was unjust. Does growing up with the experience of being afflicted by institutional racism help you sympathize with others afflicted in a way that’s harder to learn later in life?
  5. Marriage and Family really seems to have fucked Qing’s life up a bit. Taken to a different country with an average looking man for the prospect of american money, only to have the situation in China improve 10 years later. She tried to learn English but had kids instead. That sounds like a trap.
  6. Frank’s interview seems to be placed strategically after Qing’s to highlight the different motivations of immigrants from China. Both live similar lives in the US, working very hard and struggling with language and raising a family, but Frank had a rich life in China before he came to the US. He didn’t come because there were no jobs in China, he came to stay with his family. I guess I can’t really empathize to strongly when I’m so young.
  7. It’s so crazy that the supreme court was defrauded about Japanese internment with the Korematsu decision (there’s a really interesting radio documentary about Korematsu called American Pendulum by More Perfect) I wonder what exactly was withheld from the supreme court, and I also what difference the fraud made. Would the supreme court have made a different decision with all the info? It doesn’t sound like they were really enforcing real law in that case anyway.
  8. Gary Locke seems like a really admirable guy. It really feels today like politics is full of cynical wolfs planning their power plays. To hear of a time when someone as humble as this could become governor just boggles my mind. Do they still exist?
  9. Ruby really makes me think about what it means to be a politician, to go from a leader in a small community of people who know you, to being voted into office mostly by people who don’t feels really alien. Ruby and Gary feel like they are underestimating the amount of work they did to reach public office.
  10. It’s interesting that Cheryl’s interview is right after Ruby’s. She contradicts Ruby on so many points. “when my mom was in politics i saw how dirty it was” why is she more comfortable sharing the dirt? Does her mom just want to forget about it?
  11. Marriage and the Green card is a really import chapter. just a short description of an ongoing injustice.  It’s interesting how the way our immigration system works can enforce the dis-empowerment of women.
  12. it’s interesting that Ark is facing the difficulty in recruiting young members into the Family association. it’s like those younger generations who are more Americanized don’t need the family associations to survive like the older generations did. What does it mean to preserve a community for so many generations?
  13. Hank is from a coal mining town. i can’t think of anything more country than that. “you load sixteen tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt” i don’t feel that Hank is in anyway trespassing on my American heritage. But if a friend of mine was like “I’m gonna learn how to play traditional Japanese music” I would feel pretty uncomfortable. I wonder what that says about me. Am I estranged from my culture to find it more novelty than sacred? or am i wrong about my belief that Japanese folk music should not be trespassed by outsiders?
  14.  The Jimi Hendrix of the Ukulele is a pretty tense title. On the one hand, Jimi Hendrix could be used just to describe a musician that is both good at their instrument and in some way disruptive and innovative to the common way of playing.  But Jimi Hendrix is also Racial Icon.
  15. It’s interesting how universal seeming the appeal of rock music was. Also how isolated their band was. Like they didn’t feel any racism and they felt only participation in american pop culture. but at the same time they were only heard by their peers in Chinatown.
  16. it’s interesting how the video tape age allowed for the creation of their niche media company. i wonder what the internet has done for communities creating media for themselves.
  17. It’s interesting ho Albert faced such harsh racism in Appalachia but then didn’t really fit in with the other Korean kids once he left for college. that’s such gotta feel like such a lonely place to be.  (also evangelism is so creepy)
  18. The language barrier Daniel has with his parents is terrifying. I can’t even imagine not being able to speak to a relative of mine. (Marinaomi has a good comic called turning japanese about trying to learn japanese, a language he mother never taught her, so that she could speak with her grandparents for the first time.) also interesting how he too felt like college was a place of racial cliques more so than highschool
  19. Jeff seems to have never felt inferior as a result of being Pillipino however he has compared himself to other Asian Americans and felt he was a “lower degree” of API for not knowing the language
  20. David’s experience sounds so lonely. He’s one of a kind. just “David” “That Guy David.” it’s interesting for someone to feel so adrift. He identifies Hong Kong as his home, but he doesn’t really feel at home there.
  21. It’s interesting hearing Laura’s experience from her perspective. It’s interesting how Daniel identified how there was more pressure on Laura to succeed in school. but when she talks about it it sounds much more stressful. Also it sound very difficult growing up with a father like that.
  22. Agnes speaks about discrimination on account of being a woman, in the Philippines and being an Asian Woman in america. It’s interesting how many stories there are of API’s having jobs and not being promoted until they quite and then employer’s being like “Ok we’ll promote you damn we can’t live without you”
  23. It’s interesting that Albert feels that he doesn’t have a say in whether asian americans become stars or not despite running a large magazine.
  24. I don’t think i fully understand the truths that corky lee is exposing. why is parking hard in china town after nine eleven? what is the significance of that? is there a conspiracy?
  25. This was really interesting, i didn’t think about how the concentration camps changed the way that japanese americans related to each other. The drive to assimilate that Dale is talking about makes alot of sense after that trauma.
  26. it’s interesting how the Hmong people changed the schedule of their celebrations to coincide with american time off. it makes me think about how culturally singular our official government holiday’s are. how come we don’t get chinese new year off?
  27. it’s interesting the generational difference between Vietnamese immigrants. Those who fled before the war got to bad, and those who were held in camps.
  28. it’s interesting that there should be such a large cultural enclave like Korea town. a place where assimilation isn’t really an issue because you’re surrounded by people that already speak the same language as you. in alot of ways it sounds very positive for immigrants. it’s interesting that these two siblings have such a low opinion of it. Is the Korean Mafia a terrible presence?

Talking Points: Alien Encounters

  1. Page 2 “In considering our childhood rapport for Data, we are confronted with the complexity of our affections, a complexity that comes to bear upon our intellectual preoccupations…”
    • “the complexity of our affections” feels like such a ripe phrase to me. The authors are pushing up against attempts to define positive representations of Asian Americans in pop culture. What does positive representation look like when there are so many different people who might identify as Asian American.
  2. Page 14 “But even as the unprecedented corporate interest in Asian communities increased the circulation of Asian American cultural productions within and beyond Asian American audiences, participation in this new multicultural marketplace came with some new demands. The most pressing of these was the demand to produce palatable and thus saleable visions of Asianness…”
    • Just as APIA representation in pop cultural media is complicated, attention on APIA people from the pop market is complicated. Corporations recognizing the importance of a variety of people in the “fragmenting market” could be viewed as a positive thing but it also enforces an “otherness” both by treating Asian and Pacific Islander Americans as fundamentally different from White Americans and by creating a version of Asianness that could be marketed to White Americans. (also treating Asian Americans as one homogeneous group)
  3.   Page 17 “…there is little consensus about what it means to be well represented. as such, one might suspect that this language of authenticity can do scant more than simply sanction certain identities and deny the ‘heterogeneity, hybridity, and multiplicity,’ …” and, indeed, the decades-long desire to generate “positive images” or more “authentic representations” has done little to undermine the power of stereotypes or ultimately to free Asian Americans from them.”
    • perhaps what is being sought then is not positive images necessarily but images with dimension to them. Perhaps using authenticity not to describe an essential quality of Asian Americans, but the authentic experience of individual people.
  4. “… If we accept a priori that Asian American Studies is subjectless, then rather than looking to complete the category “Asian American,” to actualize it by such methods as enumerating various components of differences … we are positioned to critique the effects of the various configurations of power and knowledge through which the term comes to have meaning.”
    • This is a quote from scholar Kandice Chuh on the subject of subject-less discourse. This idea has been bouncing around my brain since reading it. As Chico pointed out in class this is hardly a complete definition of Asian American because of its post structural peculiarity, but it does seem to me to capture a certain truth about what it means to discuss politically sanctioned groups of people.