Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection of essays deals with family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality. An exploration of Asian American consciousness and the struggle to be human.
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.
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.
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.