Early in the formidable new essay collection “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning,” the poet Cathy Park Hong delivers a fatalistic state-of-the-race survey.
“In the popular imagination,” she writes, “Asian Americans inhabit a vague purgatorial status .
“Minor Feelings” consists of seven essays; Hong explains the book’s title in an essay called “Stand Up” that centers on Richard Pryor’s “Live in Concert.” Minor feelings are “the racialized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic.” One such minor feeling: the deadening sensation of seeing an Asian face on a movie screen and bracing for the ching-chong joke.
For a long time, Hong recounts in the book’s first essay, she did not want to write about her Asian identity.
I read “Minor Feelings” in a fugue of enveloping recognition and distancing flinch.