One of our own has recently published a book. Mihee Kim-Kort published Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology.
Some might call it cliche because it’s a little Joy Luck Club meets Mulan. An Asian mother teaching her Asian daughter to do origami. But maybe it sounds “cliche” because it seems familiar… I read a bit and it sounds like I could have written the story about making paper cranes with my own mother:
My mother taught me to make paper cranes when I was young. We sat at the kitchen table and took regular, white copy paper, folded the paper over in a triangle so it made a perfect square and creased the bottom so that we could carefully tear it off and discard it. After that it was “fold here, open here, bend here, fold again…” Before long, a perfect paper crane materialized in front of us. For the longest time, this picture of my mother and me connecting over such a simple but almost magical object has stayed with me. I can hear her voice, as she tells me, almost wistfully, “if you make a thousand of these little creatures and put them in a box, you can make a wish that will come true…”
Or was it, “get long life of good health”?
Or maybe, “find a lot of luck”?
I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure about very much when it came to knowing myself and connecting to the language and culture of my mother. Much of what I encountered sometimes seemed wonderfully and strangely exotic to me and yet, there was even more that echoed and resonated in familiar ways even if I hadn’t directly tasted the foods of my mother’s childhood or stepped out onto the street in front of my mother’s house. I felt this growing up in the church too. I couldn’t completely separate out the reality that there was a disparity between the experience of faith in my Korean church and the experience I had in Anglo or mainline, evangelical communities.
Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology came out of a season of struggling with my racial/ethnic identity in the context of my Christian faith. Growing up in mostly Anglo communities and in a few Korean or Asian church groups, I wrestled with an experience of faith that felt at odds with each other. Sometimes it was the sense that I was an outsider looking in and trying to appropriate a language that felt forced and frustrating. Sometimes it was the bitter reality that I had no voice in one community and a limited voice in another. Other times it felt like something was missing from all our fellowship and worship gatherings – where were the other voices? Literally, Other – the ones on the margins, or oppressed, or silenced because of their contexts? It was during this time of reflection that I discovered the racial and gender dynamics underlying my faith experience, and for me to truly be authentic in my journey, I needed to confront, engage, and attempt to articulate the struggle. In doing so, I believed that I was being faithful to God and the furthering of God’s kingdom.
It is a blend of narrative – looking at my own life and remembering – while engaging current sociological, historical, and theological works by Asian Americans and specificially, Asian American women. It is by no means comprehensive or meant to speak for all Asian American women, or even all Korean American women, but it is an attempt to give language to how I came and continue to move towards embracing both struggle and reconciliation, not only with God but with neighbor.
Mihee Kim-Kort immigrated to the US from Seoul, South Korea with her parents when she was a year old. She earned her BA at the University of Colorado and an MDiv and ThM at Princeton Theological Seminary. Currently she is an ordained Presbyterian minister directing a college student ministry in Indiana. She lives with her husband and three children in Bloomington, IN. And she is a contributor to 8Asians.com