Here's a repost of a fun thing I did almost 1.5 years ago on this blog, when I was railing against identity politics and the silly gesticulations of "who we are" that waste shelf space in American bookstores. I thought it a funny post and a more interesting way of communicating my New Year's resolution to try and be more creative and varied in my posting on this blog. I was considering today writing my own mock self-revelatory and free verse poem, an exercise that I'll save for later; badly-written poetry and novels focusing on the superficial aspects of "racial" identities are just too easy pickins for this biracial boy. Happy New Year, all!
American identity politics is a tricky, contradiction-laden, and sometimes neurotics thing. Well, that's what happens when you navel gaze, so it's not surprising. And often, the very construction of the "identity" of "Asian American" involves a reproduction of the very assumptions and values that Asian Americans are trying to leave behind.
In the interest of satire, I've written a book description of the work that I'll never do, one that I would be loathe and embarrassed to ever sign my name to. My friend back in that States suggested that if I ever write a book, I should change my name to Michael Hurt-Song – "reclaim my mother's name" – to lay claim to my own "authenticity." Well, in my blurb, I "fancify" my name as far as I'd ever think possible if I ever did ending up publishing a book such as this.
Recycled cliché and recurring bouts of self-exotification of oneself as part of a mysterious and inscrutable "culture" are both things that permeate Asian American literature and popular understandings of identity, and are nearly sickening as found in the most extreme and egregious examples. So of course, I try to fit as much of that sort of stuff into my fantasy book blurb, which follows below.
Soul to Seoul: One Man's Journey into His Own Morning Calm
Like a side of blackfish served on a bed of rice, the contrasts posed by such a combination may seem plain unpalatable, an unlikely union better left unmade.
This memoir tells the story of a man torn between two opposing worlds, who finds synthesis of soul in the city of Seoul. Written with the emotional sensibilities of Helie Lee's Still Life With Rice, the sensuous exoticism of both The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife, and laced with the boundary-breaking boldness of the erotic classic On A Bed of Rice, M.W. Hurt's first work is an inspiring yet unsettling account of Blackness adrift in a sea of Yellow.
On the course of the journey are revealed several discoveries that shatter the traditional notions of cultures separated by the dictates of blues and buttermilk, han and hanboks. Hurt struggles with trying issues: I am more than black, but less than Korean. Who am I? Who will lay claim to me? Can a brother eat kimchi and collard greens? From the Korean steppes, hills, and plains that bore his grandmother, mother and by extension him, Hurt struggles to answer these questions while trying to make sense of the Korean blood that still burns through his veins. Peppers and the redness that it imbues into Korean cuisine are the stuff of life here in the "Land of a Thousand Miracles." From it does not actually originate the color of Korean food, but surely there is something about the indomitable Korean spirit that shares the spunk and spice of its culinary mainstay. But this begs the question: what is the color of the soul?
Eww. I think I'm going to hurl now.