Younghill Kang (1903-1972)
Contributing Editor: Elaine H. Kim
Classroom Issues and Strategies
Students will generally be unfamiliar with Korean history and society, both past and present. They will also have trouble with Kang's archaisms. To address these problems, provide extensive socio-historical background and place the work within United States literary context, especially the Asian-American literature context.
Teach Kang in tandem with Korean-American women writers (e.g., Ronyoung Kim, Clay Walls, 1987) depicting the same period. Also, consider comparing Kang to the following:
1. Contemporary Korean-American writers (e.g., T. Y. Park, Guilt Payment, 1983).
2. Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese portrayers of community life (e.g., Louis Chu, Bulosan, Milton Murayama).
3. "Refugee" writing (e.g., Wendy Law-Jone, The Coffin Tree, 1983).
Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues
Consider the following possibilities:
1. Immigrant (as opposed to sojourner) view.
2. Class perspectives when facing race discrimination.
3. Portrait of early Korean-American community life, through three major characters and a narrator.
East Goes West was written by a non-white immigrant for an Anglo audience at a time of intense anti-Asian activity in the United States.
Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections
Compare with Carlos Bulosan, America Is in the Heart; Lin Yutang's work, "selling" China to western readers. Examine the class perspective of immigrants versus elite sojourners.
Give them one of my overview essays on Asian-American lit., e.g., from
American Studies International Fall 84
Cultural Critique Spring 87
Columbia Literary History of the U.S. (1988)