Caring Across Generations // Grace J. Yoo and Barbara W. Kim.


Drawing from 137 interviews and their respected fields of study (Asian American Studies), Yoo and Kim consolidated five areas of emphases that enforce and reinforce the linked lives of Korean immigrant parents (1st gen.) with their children (1.5/2nd gen. and beyond): (1) brokering dreams, (2) giving back, (3) caring about culture, (4) gender at work, and (5) in the midst of caring for ill parents. Most, if not nearly all, immigrant children experience a strange and disruptive role reversal starting as early as childhood and as late as mid-life: as ones most proficient in U.S. culture and English, children research, translate, guide, advise, provide, and advocate for parents. Emotionally taxing, financially burdening, culturally imposing, and existentially pressing, some Korean children find inordinate strength to muster on and while others whither in resentment. These are their stories.

Personally, I found it enriching to know that the Korean immigrant children experience is somewhat unique (contra white children or other minority children). Because the book revolve around testimonies, many of the shared words were strangely familiar: more than a handful of times I have found myself saying, “Oh, wow…I guess I’m not alone in thinking like that…”

With that being said, there are many limitations to the book–something Yoo and Kim acknowledge. The sample pool is a bit small, all the interviewees currently reside in either San Francisco or Los Angeles (though they all grew up in various part of the states), most have done well for themselves (i.e., many ‘successful immigrant stories’), and the dominant voice tend to be the oldest sibling (I’m the youngest, therefore I had to reimagine their words in my context or my life in theirs). Nonetheless, I recommend this to anyone interested in immigrant struggle and to every single Korean immigrant.

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