Cathy Park Hong. (Photo: Penguin Random House)

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong comes to the Cambridge Public Library on Monday – online – for a conversation with Harvard’s Courtney Sato about her “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning.” The book has drawn praise from critics in The New Yorker, The New York Times, National Public Radio and more, called everything from “nimble, smart, and deliberate” to “brutally self-aware [in the way Hong] embraces her anger.”

As hate crimes against Asian Americans spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, Time endorsed “Minor Feelings” as one of the best books of 2020, calling Hong’s voice “urgent and raw as she unpacks what it’s like to experience prejudice that doesn’t fit into the exact mold of oppression faced by other minorities in the U.S.”

In May, Deadline announced that the essays had been optioned for a television show to be written and directed by Greta Lee, memorable as Maxine in Netflix’s “Russian Doll” and stints on “New Girl,” “Girls” and HBO’s “Miracle Workers.”

Hong, poetry editor of the New Republic and a professor at Rutgers-Newark University, has written three collections of poetry in addition to the essays of “Minor Feelings,” which look at topics such as Japanese internments during World War II, the L.A. Riots after the beating of Rodney King and the rape and murder of poet and artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Other pieces have more directly personal origins, such as growing up as the Korean American child of immigrants or fraught friendships, including one with a fellow artist that touches on artistic theft, anger and insanity.

It begs the question of what Hong means by “minor feelings.”

“Initially, it was going to be a book about institutional racism in the arts, but after Trump got elected I felt this book needed to be both broader and more personal,” Hong told Sharlene Teo in the journal Wasafiri. “‘Minor Feelings’ is essentially about the psychological effects of being invisible in a nation where the dominant culture doesn’t acknowledge your reality.”

Expanding on the idea with Nicole Clark in Salon, she said, “The word ‘minor’ also has so many shades of feeling. You could say minor as opposed to major, minor as in minority, minor as in diminutized and unimportant. But underneath that minor is, of course, these very major, roiling emotions that are not legible, that are not being recognized.”

“Minor is not just a stand-in for minority,” Hong said.

  • The event takes place from 6 to 7:15 p.m. via the Zoom conferencing platform. Registration is required. Information is here.
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