Synopses & Reviews
This anthology assembles seven dramas by second-generation Korean American playwrights. The plays represent diverse themes and approaches. While they all address the Korean diaspora, some do so more obliquely than others. The collection is bookended by one-act plays. It opens with History K by Edward Bok Lee and closes with Mina by Kyoung Park. These short works convey feelings of fragmentation and disorientation. Character K is a middle-aged Asian prostitute whose inarticulate speech and erratic behavior seem to embody the physical and emotional toll of military occupation in Asia. Mina, the character in the last piece, wrestles with how she feels uprooted and displaced by her multiple identities as Peruvian, Korean, Japanese, and American. Among the five full-length plays, Julia Cho’s 99 Histories foregrounds the mother-daughter relationship and the ambivalence about remembering the past. In their emphasis on universal themes alongside the more culturally specific, the plays signal an evolution in Asian American theatre. For instance, Diana Son’s Satellites is as much about pregnancy and raising a family as it is about passing on cultural heritage and resisting racial stereotypes. In her valuable introduction, Esther Kim Lee provides a brief history of twentieth-century Korean history and immigration to the Americas, an overview of Asian American theatre, and a look at the role of Korean Americans in relation to it.
This volume brings together contemporary plays written by artists of Korean descent living in the Americas. The plays address the complex experiences of diaspora, from matters of immigration and cultural assimilation to home and belonging. In her introduction, Esther Kim Lee outlines the critical issues addressed by the playwrights and offers context for understanding the place of drama in representing the Korean diaspora. The book will be ideal for teaching and should also appeal to a general readership interested in drama and Asian American literature.
Showcasing the dynamism of contemporary Korean diasporic theater, this anthology features seven plays by second-generation Korean diasporic writers from the United States, Canada, and Chile. By bringing the plays together in this collection, Esther Kim Lee highlights the themes and styles that have enlivened Korean diasporic theater in the Americas since the 1990s. Some of the plays are set in urban Koreatowns. One takes place in the middle of Texas, while another unfolds entirely in a character's mind. Ethnic identity is not as central as it was in the work of previous generations of Asian diasporic playwrights. In these plays, experiences of diaspora and displacement are likely to be part of broader stories, such as the difficulties faced by a young mother trying to balance family and career. Running through these stories are themes of assimilation, authenticity, family, memory, trauma, and gender-related expectations of success. Lee's introduction includes a brief history of the Korean Peninsula in the twentieth century and of South Korean immigration to the Americas, along with an overview of Asian American theater and the place of Korean American theater within it. Each play is preceded by a brief biography of the playwright and a summary of the play's production history.
About the Author
Esther Kim Lee is Associate Professor of Theater and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of A History of Asian American Theatre.
Table of Contents
History K / Edward Bok Lee 1
99 Histories / Julia Cho 21
American Hwangap / Lloyd Suh 85
Hongbu and Nolbu: The Tale of the Magic Pumpkins / Jean Yoon 151
Yi Sang Counts to Thirteen / Sung Roo 195
Satellites / Diana Son 247
Mina / Kyoung H. Park 321