In this episode of The Archive Project, we feature poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong from Portland Arts & Lectures in January 2022. Hong became nationally famous in the spring of 2020 for her essay collection Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, a book so searing and powerful it landed her on the cover of Time magazine’s 2021 issue featuring the 100 most influential people in the world.
Minor Feelings is a collection of seven essays is both a deeply personal account of Hong becoming—and being—an artist, and is also an account of her and her family’s experience as Korean Americans in this country. But she has emphasized that this is a book about America, not necessarily about being Asian. It is also a book infused with her sensibility as a poet, as someone who is fascinated with the endless mutability and power of language. Hong has published three acclaimed collections of poetry, and many listeners who know and have read Minor Feelings might be surprised to learn she primarily identifies as a poet not as an essayist.
The theme of her talk is “community and belonging” and she threads a narrative through pop culture, religion, autobiography, and 20th century history, in order to try to understand the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic, and the broader discrimination so many Americans experience in their daily lives. That she does this with anger, humor, and tenderness speaks to her remarkable powers as a writer and speaker.
Cathy Park Hong is the author of three poetry collections and Minor Feelings, a New York Times bestselling book of creative nonfiction which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography and was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence. Hong is a recipient of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Her poems have been published in Poetry, The New York Times, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, and other journals. She is the poetry editor of The New Republic and full professor at Rutgers University–Newark.