Younger-Generation Korean Experiences in the United States is an edited anthology that compares two different cohorts of Korean Americans in the formation of ethnic and racial identities using thirteen personal essays written by 1.5-generation and second-generation Korean Americans. The first cohort grew up in the 1960s and early 1970s while the second cohort grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s. Each of the essays explores four influential factors of ethnic identity formation: (1) retention of ethnic culture versus adaptation into mainstream American culture, (2) participation in ethnic social networks, (3) connections/links to the mother country or lack thereof, and (4) experiences with racial prejudice and discrimination. The first three factors pertain to internal factors while the last one is an external factor.
The great increase in the Korean population in the United States, the accompanying increase in ethnic and social service organizations, and South Korea’s emergence as an economic and cultural power contributed to the later cohort’s greater retention of their cultural heritage compared to the earlier cohort. The substantial decrease in racism against Asian Americans also contributed to the second cohort’s acceptance of Korean-American ethnic identity more comfortably than the first cohort.
Although there is a great deal of academic literature on ethnic identity and the “new second-generation” children of post-1965 immigrants to the U.S., there are very few books that use personal narratives as the primary mechanism to explore these sociological topics. Furthermore, this book makes a particularly significant contribution to studies of 1.5- and second-generation ethnic identity formation since it contains essays by two different cohorts of Korean Americans, all of whom addressed similar points of comparison. This book will be useful and interesting to both scholars and lay readers, particularly to U.S.-born children of immigrants.