The essays wander a variegated terrain of memoir, criticism and polemic, oscillating between smooth proclamations of certainty and twitches of self-doubt ... [Hong's] tone can sound petulant and aggrieved, sly and comic, sometimes all at once ... studded with moments like this — candor and dark humor shot through with glittering self-awareness ... The polemical Hong is earnest and righteous...The lyrical Hong is no less furious, but she’s wryer and sharper, less blunt and more subversive. She sees how she benefits from the model-minority myth even as it traps her, absorbing her accomplishments to fuel a system she doesn’t believe in. American culture might thrive on noise and bombast, but Hong knows that power can accumulate elsewhere.
Whereas many personal narratives present a singular perspective, Hong’s approach is more expansive ... Hong’s work is an intellectual demonstration of how deeply rooted race relations in America are and how their manifestation differs across generations ... at-times funny, often deeply thought-provoking ... Some lines in Minor Feelings flow just as a lyric would while others rail against the English language and reject literary forms long cemented within canonical texts. As Hong writes, 'illegibility is a political act' ... Some of Hong’s dialogue feels forced and more rigid than the rest of her writing ... What Hong provides in Minor Feelings is a sort of groundwork for asking questions about projects that defy convention, form, and content and that look very different from canonized texts and lauded works found in museums ... an urgent consideration of identity, social structures, and artistic practice. It’s a necessary intervention in a world burgeoning with creativity but stymied by a lack of language and ability to grapple with nuance. Hong takes a step in remedying that.
Hong's lived experience schooled her in the pain of being a nonwhite American. She summoned it and added a layer of rich research and critical analysis to school the rest of us on that perspective ... what Hong makes clear in Minor Feelings is the trauma of our parents or grandparents winds up written in us one way or another, and perhaps in our collective shame, irrespective of our parents' intentions ... For non-art history majors, parts of the book may feel too theoretical or inaccessible since Hong, a decorated poet, has clearly spent her adult life in the shorthand of other creatives. And a sojourn into her time at Oberlin College left me unsatisfied, because I kept wondering, wait, what really happened to a key character? ... But ultimately, Minor Feelings is a major reckoning, pulling no punches as the author uses her life's flashpoints to give voice to a wider Asian American experience, one with cascading consequence ... Hong is naming the pain. And that's something.
Hong’s metaphors are crafted with stinging care. To be Asian-American, she suggests, is to be tasked with making an injury inaccessible to the body that has been injured ... I read Minor Feelings in a fugue of enveloping recognition and distancing flinch ... The question of lovability, and desirability, is freighted for Asian men and Asian women in very different ways—and Minor Feelings serves as a case study in how a feminist point of view can both deepen an inquiry and widen its resonances to something like universality ... Hong reframes the quandary of negotiating dominance and submission—of desiring dominance, of hating the terms of that dominance, of submitting in the hopes of achieving some facsimile of dominance anyway—as a capitalist dilemma ... Hong is writing in agonized pursuit of a liberation that doesn’t look white—a new sound, a new affect, a new consciousness—and the result feels like what she was waiting for. Her book is a reminder that we can be, and maybe have to be, what others are waiting for, too.
... offers a fierce excavation of her experience as an Asian American woman living and working as a poet and artist. Historical traumas and cultural criticism combine and are woven through this erudite essay collection of family, art history, female relationships and racial awareness ... The unyielding fervor of this eminently quotable book is sure to raise the visibility of the very textured and diverse Asian identity at a time when our fullness of reality is called for.
In the first half of Minor Feelings, Hong moves between her experience and a wider survey of Asian American history ... The description of young friends hothousing each other, artistically and intellectually, to the edge of disaster is brilliantly done, but it comes with a lesson about race and gender ... Is it possible to concoct a bad English that would not trespass on but cohabit with the bad English of other persecuted or marginalized people? Minor Feelings, among so many other things, is an argument for a literature, or a way of life, that would acknowledge a shared 'unmastering' of English.
The seven essays in Minor Feelings deftly ho[m]e in on Hong’s intimate experiences and zoom out to broader explorations of racism. She employs the first-person modular essay, offering facts, vignettes, observations, and reflections in short, relatively disconnected sections that layer and build upon each other, making space for insight and revelations in the gaps between the sections—possibly a prose form as close to poetry as you can get. It allows Hong to refuse tidy conclusions and juxtapose ideas for surprising and immediate revelations that evoke, and distort, cover, and uncover her subject matter. In this space of discomfort, Hong carries the conversation not only beyond the binary of Black and white, but also beyond the false monolith of 'Asian America' ... Cathy Park Hong’s honest and rigorous articulation of minor feelings is one step into an examination of what it will take to truly inhabit such a we—messy and imperfect as it will always be. She models ways to grapple with, fail, and grapple again with the difficulties of looking at racism clearly, and stumble forward as best we can. And in this way, she’s written a text that is playing a pivotal role in shaping the understanding of race in the United States today.
I didn’t find Hong’s ruminations on the inconsistency of the Asian American political identity on which 'the paint ... has not dried' particularly revelatory ... The writing itself is also unsure; it seems uncertain about where it should place itself both in the canon and the political imagination. Much of the book is preoccupied with the potentials suggested by coulds/woulds/shoulds. To me, Hong’s use of these words suggests that there is a 'right' answer to all these concerns, and that this answer simply needs to be found ... But the book, much like Asian Americans on the whole, falters when trying to find this answer ... Hong’s anthology sings most clearly in the essays that don’t explicitly wrangle with race; I’m inclined to say that while Minor Feelings is pitched as a political manifesto, it is something closer to intricate poetry ... 'An Education'...is an intimate and honest portrait of the author, so tender it almost feels a secret shared between close friends ... Minor Feelings, while interesting, and in some ways, familiar, is not a book made for me. Hong seems deeply aware of the inherent strangeness of writing a book on the topic of Asian Americans even though it is a group of people constructed less as a racial group and more as a continental foil.
Hong writes of Asians in sweeping terms—‘From invisible girlhood, the Asian American woman will blossom into fetish object.’ While this experience may seem common, it is hard to believe it is universal. But elsewhere, Hong holds herself to account for her own assumptions ... I was struck by Hong’s willingness to share this questioning of her own thought processes ... it is in her ability to intertwine the political, philosophical, and emotional that I find her to be at her most compelling ... There were moments reading Minor Feelings when I wondered who it was for. Was the description of an achingly common experience—being called a chink on the subway—a rallying cry? Or was it to make this particular kind of pain real to a non-Asian audience? ... Hong’s willingness to show her reckoning as partial and specific means that, rather than feeling excluded by the work, I am invited in to think with her ... it is a book that feels true and thorough. It is a book that will encourage you to look at your own life more clearly.
... bracing ... Her book is ultimately less a definitive document of the Asian American experience than it is a document of Hong’s attempts (and frequent failures) to articulate its contradictions ... as one moves through Minor Feelings, one begins to see how, beside her rejection of white affirmation, there exists a more affirmative story of Asian American collectivity: A minor plot of the book, scattered across its chapters, is one of racial solidarity ... Rather than advance any theses about contemporary Asian America, [the chapter] 'Bad English' offers a searching and introspective examination of the very language that makes Minor Feelings possible—the literary forms that enable Hong to speak to and on behalf of the contradictions of being Asian American ... Throughout 'An Education,' Hong renders...friendship—while often volatile and sometimes even violent—in a way that feels crucially vital ... Minor Feelings begins with intraracial antagonism, but it ends by trying to envision something closer to a form of intraracial solidarity.
Dry and delightfully off-key, Hong’s sense of humor is anchored in self-mockery, if not self-flagellation ... Hong uses humor self-reflexively as a rhetorical device to communicate, and cope with, thorny topics like internalized racism, shame, guilt, and bitterness ... In Minor Feelings, shame’s dissociative effects encourages scrutiny and self-reckoning, allowing Hong to skillfully navigate gaps and affinities between her own Asian-American experience and the Asian-American position more generally. When Hong doesn’t see her experience of race reflected in existing literary frameworks, she uses her racialized experience to make her own.
... weaves together personal immigrant narrative and historical anecdote into a collection of thoughtful essays, simmering in quiet rage ... the strength of this collection lies precisely in the fact that the book avoids reading like a manifesto. Hong’s rage comes off as quiet not because it has less presence, but because it allows itself to be diverted and filtered through a variety of histories, perspectives, and future considerations ... Charting her adolescent highs and lows, Hong succeeds in conveying the simultaneous ecstasy and despair fostered by codependent female friendship. Some might question what purpose a personal story serves in a collection that is, ultimately, political if creative nonfiction. But it’s by using this intimate snapshot that Hong is able to chew on some of the prickly complexities—raised as questions in other chapters—around privilege, bitterness, and joy ... Hong carefully considers what it means to face racism when one is viewed as a mostly harmless model minority, especially when one does not read as Muslim or trans. She thus punctuates grief and resentment with unanswerable questions and honest doubt, ignoring the temptation to fall into an easy accusation with faulty categories: everyone like me, versus everyone else ... doesn’t read like an answer to, or even a declarative thesis on, Asian America. Instead, it reads like a probing new beginning. Propelled by minor feelings, itching and dissatisfied, this is a reckoning that has only just begun.
... presents a fraught and considerate attempt to say what it means to be Asian American today ... [Hong's] essays offer a nuanced understanding of the Asian American psyche, not in isolation, but relative to its place in America ... a wide-ranging exploration of Hong’s own minor feelings ... Hong doesn’t dodge the specificities of her life as a Korean American, which allows her work to rupture any idea of a singular Asian American experience. By recounting these interactions, Hong’s writing makes all of these minor feelings expressible; the invisible effects of racism on individuals can be made visible ... As much as Hong acknowledges the specifics of her personal experience, she refuses to offer her story as either singular or universal.
... could serve as a Cliff Notes to Asian American existence for anyone new to the subject (white or otherwise). Hong briskly brings everyone up to speed ... [Hong's] tone is astringent, stripping the memories of any ennobling tragedy or nostalgic fuzz. The anger can’t be prettily plated ... Despite its subtitle, An Asian American Reckoning, the book takes up much of its word count discussing others...Eventually, though, this tactic seems avoidant ... After these discussions of white power and anti-blackness, her analysis stalls out. While Hong does add her own youth to the mix, she doesn’t extrapolate from that personal experience to theorize more generally, or ambitiously, about the Asian experience ... The book’s strongest entries have a driving energy, fueled by fierce personal inquiry ... makes Asian Americans more useful and a little more relevant to some global struggle. There are worse things than thinking of yourself instrumentally, as part of a bigger cause — but if there’s something richer, more capacious, or simply more, this book doesn’t point the way.
Hong interrogates dominant ideologies through fragmentation and juxtaposition. She thematically weaves nonlinear threads of personal narrative, cultural criticism, literary criticism, history, popular culture, and current events to reveal the intricate inner workings of our capitalist white supremacist patriarchy ... Hong laces her poetic sensibility into every page of Minor Feelings . Her fragmentary lyrical essay form is itself an act of resistance, a subversion of the traditional, authoritative, linear essay that argues a singular truth ... Minor Feelings is an example of literature that exposes our sense of reality. Hong’s willingness to tackle vulnerabilities and work through self-doubt and contradictory ideas on the page makes Minor Feelings a model for people interested in understanding whiteness, the dynamics of unequal power, the ways we internalize our dominant or oppressive positions, and how we interact with each other.
Poet and essayist Hong’s family history beautifully details how her life and art have been shaped by her Korean American identity ... Every page is packed with details and reflections on the myriad ways that Americans’ lives are shaped by race. The author has a particular talent for bringing a moment to life, inviting readers to confront the raw emotions of a given scene. She does not shy away from complication or bluntness, but presents her truth with all its complexity ... An extraordinary blend of memoir, cultural criticism, and history that will invite readers from all backgrounds, though especially those who identify as Asian American, to consider the complex relationships between race, family, heritage, and society that shape American lives.
... this is one of the things the book accomplishes: building a deep and immediate sense of connection, intimacy and awareness ... The essays are provocative, as they are vulnerable and tender. Hong draws on her experiences of being raised in Koreatown, Los Angeles, fraught family dynamics, friendship and art, in order to understand the Asian American psyche. In this quest, she urges her readers to consider how we imbue people with preconceived stereotypes and expectations related to race ... To this end, Hong provides new and necessary language for discussing the complexities of race ... The essay collection itself is anchored by Hong’s own versions of minor feelings. Her voice is confident, provocative, and relentless as she reflects on her own experiences. She resists traditional arcs of emotional overcoming or demise by peppering the book with episodes of self-doubt—a minor feeling she taps into often ... the emotional contradictions in this book are working at a deeper level, too ... This book gives language to those of us who never learned in college or media or life how to talk about this liminal racial space we inhabit, which is both purgatory and privilege ... [she] is a fierce and much-needed voice today.
Title aside, nothing is minor about Hong’s taut, sharp collection. The award-winning poet’s prose debut will elicit comparisons to contemporary race-conscious luminaries—think Claudine Rankine, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Roxane Gay—but Hong’s singular voice expresses both reclamation and declaration ... Seven stupendous essays mark her journey toward claiming agency ... Hong creates a fierce amalgamation comprised of careful memoir, radical history, sociopolitical treatise, and revolutionary call-out.
... blistering ... [Hong] is both angry and wryly funny when examining her struggles with depression, hemifacial spasm disorder, and poetry peers who dismissed her first book as 'hack identity politics' ... Her confrontational prose maintains a poet’s lyricism ... Combining cultural criticism and personal exploration, Hong constructs a trenchant examination of race in America.
Hong offers a fierce and timely meditation on race and gender issues from her perspective as a Korean American woman ... Candid and unapologetically political, Hong’s text deftly explores the explosive emotions surrounding race in ways sure to impact the discourse surrounding Asian identity as well as race and belonging in America ... A provocatively incisive debut nonfiction book.