Summaries and reviews of fiction and nonfiction books by Korean American authors,
books about Korean Americans and Korea, and Korean literature in English translation,
including some academic works and a sampling on the Korean War
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I Married a Korean by Agnes Davis Kim
My family knew Agnes Davis Kim as "Auntie Agnes," though she wasn't a blood relative. My Korean parents knew her, perhaps from Korea, perhaps afterwards as immigrants in America, but her book was always on our shelves, and we would visit Auntie Agnes and Uncle David on their farm in the Catskills every summer when I was young. I saw a calf being birthed on their farm, circled cow pies, drove in the herd, woke early to watch the milking machines, had my first (awful) taste of raw milk straight from the cow (blue strings in it), and smelled chitterlings cooking for the first time ever when I sneaked into the worker's quarters. I slept on a cot in the living room with my 5 other siblings, and roamed the fields and woods during unforgettable farm summers. I finally read her book, and though I remember seeing her lovely and informative illustrations, it is only now that I can appreciate what she went through to have accomplished an interracial marriage in that time. The American community in Korea was against it, aghast, really, and she faced them all and insisted on the choice of love. She adapted her life with pioneer-woman strength to the more close-to-the-earth kind of life of Korean women of the day, and created many modern conveniences within her own home (especially the kitchen) in order to run a smooth household. Among them: a method of creating hot running water, learning how to perserve and keep food through the winter the Korea way, learning how to be subservient in appearances for her husband's sake, and creating and running a successful women's clinic in the midst of Japanese colonial oppression. I had never known she was medically trained, nor had I known the kind of racism she had experienced for her choice to marry. It is an informative and interesting book that portrays these kinds of personal struggles, as well as the inventive solutions she applied to overcome them. Her love of both her husband, his family, and the Korean people is palpable, and honorable, and her illustrations bring to life in detail the challenges of her life in Korea. The image isn't the book cover (a navy blue cloth binding) but is the frontispiece, one of Mrs. Kim’s illustrations presented throughout the book.