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The reflections of thirty Korean Americans present an overview of their history in the United States and the challenges of racial, class, and gender differences they face
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Elaine H. Kim is a professor of Asian American studies and chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her previous books include Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context. She lives in Oakland, California.
Eui-Young Yu is a professor of sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. He is the editor of Black-Korean Encounter: Toward Understanding and Alliance. He lives in Los Angeles.
This diverse series of interviews with Korean-Americans grew out of the editors' reaction to the media portrayal of ``inarticulate aliens'' during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Kim (Asian-American Studies/Univ. of California, Berkeley) and Yu (Sociology/Calif. State Univ., Los Angeles) successfully offer a ``glimpse of some Korean American perspectives on history, identity, and community.'' As with all immigrant groups, the editors note, some Koreans see America as ``a promised land''; to others ``it is purgatory.'' James Park found a sanctuary here. He describes a miserable childhood in the 1940s and '50s, spanning the Japanese occupation of Korea and the North-South conflict, during which his mother died ``because of my father's neglect.'' In 1969 he left for the US as a foreign-exchange student; today he is a prominent Los Angeles importer-exporter. Dong Hwan Ku (a pseudonym) has a different perspective. He came to this country in 1984 and owns a small sundries store near an unnamed college campus. ``I am scared everyday,'' he says, recalling how he fired warning shots during the 1992 looting. He sees no solution to the violence and animosity between local black residents and the Korean business community. He wants to go home. Others, such as Kyong-A Price, have found answers and peace. A ``troubled woman'' who attempted suicide several times, Buddhist Price felt spiritually at odds with her Anglo-Christian husband. Then, like many Korean-Americans, Price became born-again and ``accepted Jesus Christ.'' As Kim and Yu note, there are 3,000 Korean Christian churches in the US but only 650 Buddhist temples. The church has become the single most important community organization. A window into a little-known community and a wide variety of people--a gay activist, a rapper, a monk--along with an excellent overview of Korean and Korean-American history. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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