May 8, 2008

Everyone can see


(A sticky note on a piece of junk mail mom forwarded to me about an outfit I wore months prior)

May 11, 2008

Unaccustomed earth

"Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth."

- Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Custom-House"

(From the forward to Jhumpa Lahiri's new book)

May 13, 2008

brooklyn, new york

One interesting thing about our Korean music group is that all the kids except one are bi-racial. This means one of the parents, usually the mom, married caucasian or in my case Latino-Irish but pretty much looks caucasian, and an early irony a few of us chuckled over was how much we'd spent our youth breaking from Korean tradition and how now as parents we were trying to find a way back.

I've had the great opportunity to get to know some of the parents better outside the group and inevitably much of our discussion centers around what the group brings up for us - what our families were like, how we rebelled as kids, how much we actually understood of Korean language... my friend who started the group dubbed me as the most Korean of the group which shows you how low the bar is for us and just how complicated our relationships were with our identities. Nothing new of course we're classic 1.5'ers but what is new is that we are now parents and are suddenly conscious of the environment we want/need/are creating for our kids.

Social anthropologists have a classic model of assimilation for immigrants and as 1.5'ers we can probably find ourselves uneasily somewhere well past the first step of having lost our language and the fourth step of only the food from our culture remaining. I imagine if our kids marry Caucasian, it will not be long before their Korean heritage is completely buried and the thought makes me sad despite having no real regrets with the decisions I've made to get here. How much longer before we are like the west coast Japanese, many of them now fourth and fifth generation, their own histories not so much connected to thousands of years as a culture but newly forged, in decades really, and as American as anyone else.

Except that we are the new Americans. And that is my point really. I can mourn the loss of tradition (what I'm really mourning is my own childhood probably, my own eventual demise) but have it consciously inform the choices I make now.

It's the thing I love about Brooklyn - that most of us have chosen to be here and that we have self-consciously created our lives. I cannot imagine a group of people more aware of the choices they make, with an even greater awareness of how other folks live including the way we were brought up themselves. This of course is our own worst fault as well, often getting in the way of being able to relax or relate simply because we are in the same space but then I look at my kids- my eldest at three has memorized all the Korean songs phonetically and can just as easily switch to Spanish lullabies, and my younger son, who is still discovering food, can be coaxed out of a tantrum for the moment with some dried squid or seaweed- and I can't imagine them being allowed to be themselves in this way, so freely, anywhere, or anytime else. (okay except parts of the west coast, and vancouver maybe)

Little about it is easy of course, and I don't want to gloss over the many tensions that still exist, will always probably exist for anyone bi-cultured. ( I am still shocked when we go to Europe, which has always symbolized post-modernity and progressive lifestyles for me, and we are confronted regularly by folks who need to discuss our cross racial marriage, and not just discuss in general but discuss actually whether it's right or good and then the inevitable shrug, "But that's Americans - they marry anyone over there.") But for now, here in Brooklyn, we've managed to do one thing right.

May 20, 2008

Music Book



Here is our favorite Korean music book for kids - it's sweetly illustrated, easy to understand and has a great selection of traditional and new songs for kids. I got this at Koryo Books in Koreatown and they can probably special order it for anyone interested say in Kansas City (Hi Grace!) or elsewhere... Though it sounds like there must be a Korean bookstore nearby in a city that size.

Otherwise, I can't seem to find it online. It's published by Samsung and when I went to their website I panicked at all that flashing Korean type and had to click away. No luck on any of the usual book ordering sites, probably because the whole thing is in Korean.

Here's the ISBN just in case, (there are two because of the CD): ISBN 89-02560-1 and ISBN 89-15-02558-X

And Unha? No website for our music group but please feel free to email me if you want do discuss. Our group is purposely homegrown, just a bunch of parents at someone's home and a great local music teacher who comes with her box of instruments.

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