IGNITE, Studying Korean American Literature with the Council of Korean Americans

I was really excited to be a part of the Council of Korean Americans summer fellowship program IGNITE. I delivered lectures on Korean American literature and identity, and narrative writing workshops on family and gender.

This is a fantastic program for Korean Americans interested in understanding their roles and dreams within the United States and beyond. Many different questions and ideas were raised. For me personally, as a 3rd/4th generation American, this was a great experience in that I could teach to a community that I understand in terms of cultural experience and outlook. 

Most people do not understand the challenges that arise when you navigate outside of the master narrative—how do you come to see yourself? How can you live as an individual, yet participate in the large framework of change and the constant move to redefine American life?

Have Your Own Dreams

The last two points I brought up were that firstly, people should feel that they can pursue their interests and be true to their individual identities—this is tough within a heavily Confucian culture, and secondly, how I felt it was important for people to see themselves, if only for a visit to Korea, outside of a white majority society. Representation and the visual and sensory reminder of anonymity delivers a sense of belonging, if only briefly. We always belong to more than one place.

There are so many ways we judge ourselves according to standards that we can never meet or ideas that are markers that we never created. We berate ourselves for not meeting expectations. This type of environment can lead to feelings of deep inadequacy, self-loathing, and confusion. I say this for all people of color, actually. It feels good to be a face in a crowd. Visit an ancestral land or continent. You would be surprised how it can reframe your perspective about yourself and the globe.

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