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From The Asian Reporter, V13, #51 (December 16, 2003), page 20.
Anthology shows diversity of Korean American voices
Echoes Upon Echoes: New Korean American Writings
Edited by Elaine H. Kim and Laura Hyun Ki Kang
Published by The Asian American Writers’ Workshop
Distributed by Temple University Press, 2002
271 pages, Hardcover, $59.50, Paperback, $19.95
By Edward J. Han
Korean American communities across the country recently celebrated one hundred years of immigration to the United States. One fact is evident. Each and every person of Korean descent has had a unique experience. Whether fresh off the boat or fourth-generation American, the tales are as varied as the faces they belong to. University of California professors Laura Kang and Elaine Kim have compiled a collection of essays, poems, and short stories that are representative of this diversity.
On September 5, 1904, Daisy Chun Rhodes’s father stepped off the S.S. Korea and became one of the first Koreans to immigrate to Hawaii. The novelist and playwright pays tribute in "My Father’s Voice."
"How Uncle Dan Got Himself a Wife," by Julia Lee, is a story about America as the land of opportunity. Having landed in Los Angeles, fresh off the boat, during the mid-’80s, Eun Il becomes Daniel and begins to chase the American dream. After working a number of menial jobs, he becomes licensed in Eastern medicine and moves to Tennessee. Uncle Dan eventually finds himself a Ukrainian wife via the Internet and announces that Olga is pregnant.
These days Korean Americans can be found in all walks of life. In "Friday the Day I Hate Being Korean," Dominic Choi’s character, Jaewook, is a power broker who has just closed a multimillion-dollar bank deal. But the financial hotshot must change gears on Friday afternoon. He goes to his parents’ store to gut and clean fish in preparation for frying.
Grace Elaine Suh’s "How to Live. What to Do." is a poignant story about Joe Park. The former SUNY Binghamton student has just completed his first day as a temp worker after quitting Columbia Law School. As Joe prepares to attend a cousin’s christening, he recounts the grammatically challenged e-mails from mom and life-lesson advice given by his father. The fact that young Park is the son of "a Dry Cleaner to the Stars" borders on cliché, but the parental musings are so spot on that the entire story works flawlessly.
N. Rain Noe’s, "Untitled," takes place in New York City’s Koreatown. The narrator has finished dinner with his girlfriend and is about to ride home on the subway when he realizes that he has lost his Sense of Self. As he retraces his steps, the protagonist visits an Asian grocery store, is approached by a pair of devout Christians, and searches a Korean restaurant for the lost item.
"Son of Kings," by Junse Kim, tells the story of Jae-Hyun Nolan Kim. The Harvard graduate has joined the Peace Corps for a two-year stint. Afterwards, the heir (the first son of the first son of the first son, etc.) to the Shilla dynasty has promised his father that he will move to Korea, find a native wife, and sire a son to continue the royal lineage. But there is a twist in the story… Jae-Hyun is half Irish. And following in his father’s footsteps, he himself meets a fine Irish lass during his time in Tunisia. It’s all fun and games until dad makes an unannounced visit.
In the century that has passed since the first immigrants arrived from "The Land of the Morning Calm," the Hanguk people have discovered that they have something to say. Echoes Upon Echoes displays the vivid spectrum of the Korean American voice.