To celebrate the launch of her book Biting the Hand, author Julia Lee is hosting a Thursday night party at the Village Well! Come by and enjoy delicious eats from the Koji Taco Truck, a DJ set from Jason Domantay, and a reading from Julia. The event will also feature AJSOCAL, the nation’s largest Asian American civil rights organization.
Julia Lee’s memoir, “Biting the Hand: Growing Up Asian in Black and White America,” examines the forging of her identity as a Korean American woman in a country that still operates under a racial hierarchy.
From the New York Times “The book is divided into three parts, beginning with “Rage,” an intimate account of the author’s tumultuous family life and its tortured silences around racial anxiety and inherited trauma. Lee’s parents, survivors of the Korean War, owned a liquor store in Inglewood, Calif., and then a fast-food chicken joint in nearby Hawthorne. The latter business was heavily damaged in the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, when Lee was 15. At the time, Lee was an angry teenager who clashed with her “psycho Korean mom” and chafed against the conservative culture of her private all-girls school.
“Shame” presents her time as an undergraduate at Princeton, where she was indoctrinated into an exclusive, elitist culture “built upon whiteness and in service of whiteness.” After graduation, Lee had a short, miserable stint in management consulting, before entering a doctoral program in English at Harvard. But she floundered there, too, feeling isolated and depressed. “I’d assumed that a community of people devoted to literature would be kinder and more humane” than the corporate world she’d escaped, Lee observes. “But as I soon found out, academia is no different from other systems of power.”
Things looked up only when a friend in the African American studies department introduced her to Jamaica Kincaid, who became a mentor. She offered Lee this crucial advice: Dare to critique those in authority who expect your subservience for access to privilege. “You must bite the hand that feeds you,” Kincaid said, and Lee took this to heart.
In the final section, “Grace,” Lee moves through a personal and professional reckoning in order to find her footing as a professor of African American and Caribbean literature, first at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and later at Loyola Marymount University. “I had perfected a teaching persona that was based on my experiences in elite white spaces,” she writes. “But now I was exhausted.” Lee admits to “relearning” how to teach, and how to write, in ways that centered her students (and readers) of color.
Thursday May 11 2023 5:30pm – 8:00pm
Village Well Books & Coffee
9900 Culver Blvd.