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It amounted to asking if I minded being Korean; yes, I minded, or no, I didn’t mind, both seemed too mild for how I’d felt.

Growing up, I was the only Korean most of my friends and family knew, the only Korean I knew.

The self-consciousness I’d felt but hardly known how to track since starting at that small white school bloomed to sudden, painful awareness.

Kids I’d known since kindergarten now seemed like strangers — either hostile, or else somehow remote and inaccessible.

I’d felt such hope when I saw their smiles.

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