112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Ethnic and Local Identity and Homecoming of the Hawai‘i Diasporic Korean Brenda Kwon

Heui-Yung Park, University of Hawai'i, Manoa

My paper looks at autobiographical writings, including poems, composed by the Hawai‘i-born Korean diaspora Brenda Kwon. Examining how Kwon has represented and identified herself in relation to her ancestral homeland and her birthplace points to her identity journey as she moves between Hawai‘i, contiguous America, and Korea. 

Proposal: 

In Reading Asian American Literature: From Necessity to Extravagance (1993), Sau-ling Cynthia Wong explains how mobility is the essence of America in general, associated with freedom since the arrival of the Pilgrims in the early seventeenth century. This notion also appears in the writings of Asian Americans, regardless of ethnicity and generation, as in Milton Murayama’s All I Asking for Is My Body (1959), Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart (1973), Shawn Wong’s Homebase (1979), and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dicteé (1982) to name only a few. The cultural, geographical, socio-economic, or linguistic movement that these various generations of Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, and Korean diasporas make within and beyond the U.S. borderlines, points to the significance of mobility in representing diasporic identity of ethnic Americans, showing the development of their ethnic, American identity, or Hawai‘i local identity linked to where they come from, move, and finally settle. 

The idea of mobility is an important metaphor for my paper that examines autobiographical writings, including poems, composed by the Hawai‘i-born Korean diaspora Brenda Kwon.

How Kwon has represented herself reveals her identity journey as she moves between Hawai‘i, contiguous America, and Korea, eventually arriving at “an end of immobility, but immobility of a desirable kind: that of having created a permanent home and cast down roots.” According to Wong, the travelers’ journeys anticipate an ultimate settlement, for they search for a home or a sense of stasis even while on the move. Looking into Kwon’s self-representations echoes this sense, what Wong calls “at-homeness, rootedness, or centeredness,” showing how they are closely linked to the Island Korean diasporic traveler’s identification with family, community, and ties to the home place.