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The literary career of Richard Eun-kook Kim may best be viewed as a set of narrative responses to his biography and the broader political dilemma of modern Korea, one beset by differential and competing historical colonialisms and ideologies on the peninsula. Key figures in the USA were marshalled to serve Cold War interests by making literature a central instrument in winning transnational hearts and minds; Kim would benefit from this by becoming the first Asian to enroll in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, from which he would draft his first novel, The Martyred, whose popularity signaled that readers viewed Kim and his work as an expression of US liberal value from an Asian beneficiary of the Cold War project. But Kim’s form of realism actually serves as a form of narrative autonomy from such expected discursive capture. This, and in his later forays into speculative fiction and elegiac life writing – the novel The Innocent (1968) and collection Lost Names: Scenes of a Korean Boyhood (1970), respectively – Kim narrates a Korean temporality that seeks to minimize, even as it acknowledges, the influence of imperial powers.
The Pacific Fish Center is an unlikely destination for Korean tourists, but in the summertime thousands bring their visiting relatives and friends from Korea to this ramshackle eatery on a well-trodden portion of Redondo Beach Pier, about a dozen miles south of Los Angeles International Airport. All sorts of bivalve mollusks, shrimp, and - most importantly for these customers - crab and lobster swim in individual tanks in the front of the restaurant, a marine manifestation of Southern California's seeming treasure. Here, one can enjoy seafood with plates of kimchi, the staple Korean side dish of spicy pickled cabbage, as well as soju, the fermented, potato-derived beverage that in Los Angeles is as commonly consumed as Japanese sake. Here, the tourists' server is unlikely to be Korean himself; rather, he will probably hail from El Salvador or Guatemala, but will still converse fluently in Korean with staff and clientele alike. While visitors to Los Angeles may initially marvel at such proficiency in someone who looks nothing like themselves, the longtime residents of Southern California's many Koreatowns will barely skip a beat, and instead complain that their steamed king crab hasn't arrived soon enough. The server will apologize and bark at a fellow Latino feverishly keeping up with similar orders to hurry up - in Korean. Twenty miles eastward and inland, in an unassuming storefront sandwiched between a clothing store and another restaurant, young Koreans work late into the night creating a flyer in three languages: Korean, English, Spanish.
While sociologists generally do not deign to assume such a rhetorical mantle, Michael Omi and Howard Winant Suffuse the first edition of Racial Formation with the language of prophecy that they at once fear to articulate and hope to imagine otherwise. “What does the immediate future hold?” they anxiously wonder.
It is unlikely that we shall experience a period of racially based mobilization such as “the great transformation.” The conjuncture in which the 1960s racial upsurge occurred was almost certainly unique. The sophistication of the contemporary racial state and the transformed political landscape as a whole seem to thwart any short-term radical political initiative based in opposition to the racial order. (143)
As the rest of the nation, and indeed the world, prepared to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, a quieter remembrance was taking place in the halls of Asian American Studies programs around the United States. There was a special kind of grief at UCLA's Asian American Studies Center on September 6, 2002, when director Don T. Nakanishi issued a press release announcing the death of Yuji Ichioka on September 1. For more than three decades, Ichioka held the position of Senior Researcher at the Center; he taught the Center's first class shortly after its establishment in 1969. An award-winning author, he was effectively the creator of Asian America in the sense that, in 1968, while a young graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, he coined the term “Asian American,” and helped found the anti-Vietnam war, antiracist student group, the Asian American Political Alliance. The Asian students at San Francisco State College, who along with black, Chicana/o, Native, and leftist white students shut down the school for five months in a historic strike to call for, among many things, the establishment of a School of Ethnic Studies, might opt to identify themselves more as part of the “Third World Liberation Front” than a self-identified racial group, but gradually “Asian American” became the accepted descriptive term.
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