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.
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.