Praise for The Sum of Breathing


The Sum of Breathing is moving because of its honesty, and beautiful because of its exquisite writing. Somewhere near its center are the convoluted feelings about visiting the land of a grandfather she never knew, when alienation spills over into family and romantic relationships. -- Elaine Kim, Writer-director, Slaying the Dragon, Reloaded: Asian Women in Hollywood and Beyond

In Brenda Kwon, we are given the diaphanous world that bridges the ancient homeland and the new. Her words and imagery create fresh revelations and ultimately show us the triumphs of the everyday in its jubilations and confusions. This is marvelous writing. -- Gary Pak, author of The Watcher of Waipuna, A Ricepaper Airplane, Children of the Fireland, and Language of the Geckos and Other Stories

With tongue sharp and smooth, Brenda Kwon dissects comfortable ideas of self and "home," only to reconfigure them in new and startling ways; the familiar becomes unfamiliar in this collection where the immigrant past, the diasporic present, and the geography of memory converge. -- Nora Keller, author of Comfort Woman and Fox Girl

In Brenda Kwon, we have a warrior poet who writes poignant stories and a spiritual storyteller who fuels her prose with poetic meditations on language, cross-cultural zones, identity, and the past her characters keep returning to and rebuilding. Her incantatory poems and page-turning stories about the gifts and woes inherited from parents and grandparents--their solitude and beauty, their wounds and half-realized dreams, their rituals and battles, won or lost--help us to outgrow, if not anchor, our grief and other heartbreaks. -- R. Zamora Linmark, author of The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart

The Sum of Breathing, simply put, is amazing, never failing to speak truth as it expertly veers from childhood to adulthood, from loss to wisdom. Its breathtaking core is the story of a mother-daughter relationship rendered so beautifully that the reader cannot help but think of his or her mother and remember what it is to be an object of unconditional love, a burden, a puzzle, a disappointment, and a source of pride all at the same time. This is the best kind of book--one that is sure to touch all readers on a profound level. -- Chris McKinney, author of The Tattoo, The Queen of Tears, Bolohead Row, Mililani Mauka, Boi No Good, and The Red Headed Hawaiia

YOBO: Korean American Writing from Hawai'i

From the Editors

     "The word yobo still brings that pinch of pain, conjuring up old injuries from the playground where bullies would taunt, 'Hey, Yobo! You stink-face, kimchee-eating yobo-jack!

     Back then, yobo meant Ke'eaumoku Street hostesses, bar girls wearing too much make-up and over-the-top jewelry, who called out to men in the streets: 'You likee buy me drinkee?

     Yobo meant Kitchen Mamas stooped over the grill at hole-in-the-wall Korean take-out joints, or vendors peddling gold-plated trinkets and psychedelic candles on Duke's Lane, or FOBs squatting in airport terminals with coolers of kimchee and bundles of bedding like refugees from a country we all wanted to forget.

     Yobo meant hardheaded, hot-blooded shame....

     But in turning away, we forgot that yobo is a term of endearment, born of love both passionate and spiritual. We forgot how the strength of family, the foundation of community, depended on that bond of love and respect between yobos. That bond, the source of our strength--

     Take these stories. Put these pieces together. Make them whole once more. Heal the body of our severed selves--country, community, identity--by calling each other gently, lovingly, 'Yobo.'"

Featuring contributions by authors including Don Lee, Willyce Kim, Walter K. Lew, Mindy Eun Soo Pennybacker, and Chris McKinney.

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Beyond Ke'eaumoku


Korean Locals and Local Koreans

The marginalization of Koreans from Local history and culture was the result of Korean social and political events abroad. Koreans in Hawai'i must recognize a history that gave rise to their separation from Local culture. At the same time, there is justifiable desire for Koreans who can trace their heritage back to the plantations to claim Local history...

This book reclaims Korean history in Hawaii through the examination of  works by three local writers of Korean descent: Margaret Pai, Ty Pak,  and Gary Pak.