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The Changing Face of America
The Travails of Finding Home
'Don't fall asleep. Don't fall asleep." A mother's warning prodded a young K. Connie Kang as she fought off drowsiness on a bitter winter night in 1951. As Kang sat perched on the rooftop, a train packed with people and goods chugged its way from Seoul to the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. Rope formed an umbilical cord around Kang's waist, with the other end tightly gripped by her mother who prayed and hung on for dear life. Thankfully, mother and child survived the harrowing ordeal, but war and its cruelties brought dislocation and loss, setting into motion a series of migrations for Kang and her family that eventually led to the United States.
So begins the autobiography of K. Connie Kang, veteran journalist with the Los Angeles Times, who chronicles the moving saga of her personal and family history. Though the narrative begins with the war, Kang moves backward in time to her ancestral village of Boshigol in northeastern Korea. Family stories, no doubt idealized over time, are fondly recorded and speak to the prosperity and prominence of the Kang family.
Readers are seemingly transported to a very different time and place and yet also witness how personal history is intertwined with the tremendous changes taking place in Korea. Just after the turn of the century, Kang's great-grandfather becomes an early convert to Christianity and to "modern" ideas that accompanied the American missionaries. Myong-Hwan Kang, Connie's paternal grandfather, fought the brutal oppression of Japanese colonialism, suffering torture and imprisonment. Sharing about Christianity, modernization, the colonial period, and the Korean War, Kang not only discusses key events in modern Korean history, but touches upon the experiences that continue to shape the lives of many Korean-American immigrants today.
Beyond Black & White
THE JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1996 issue on race in America ("Can We Talk?") sparked me to write.