Book Review of "Invisible"
A few years ago, I was invited to be an external examiner for Fiona Li, an MA student at the University of St. Michael’s College. I agreed to be her external examiner and it was really nice to meet her in person when I spoke at the University of St. Michael’s College in Fall 2022.
Fiona Li is now a Ph.D. student and she reviewed my book, Invisible for the Journal of Moral Theology. I am grateful for her review and I hope that my book, Invisible will be a lens to understand the marginalized and a Theology of Visibility will be helpful to many.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Invisible: Theology and the Experience of Asian American Women
Fiona May Kay Li, Journal of Moral Theology 12 (1): 153–54.
In this work, Kim argues that the experience of invisibility is a shared experience for all Asian Americans, especially Asian American women. In each chapter, she explores a different lens through which the invisibility of Asian Americans can be understood. For example, she speaks about the history of Asians in America, and how different myths, such as the Yellow Peril myth, were and still are used against Asians in America to push them into the margins of society and render them voiceless (62–64).
What is appreciated about this book is that Kim includes the ways in which certain facets of Asian culture teach Asian women to be invisible. For example, in Chapter 1 Kim explains the realities of Confucian patriarchy, which dictates a particular vision of the feminine ideal and places women squarely within the confines of the home (25–28). The inclusion of the Asian culture in her book is appreciated because it highlights the integrity of the human person. While Asian Americans may not be situated in Asia, they are still active, possibly through community events or their families, with the Asian culture. Thus, Asian culture still remains an influential party in the formation of the whole Asian American person. Kim says as much: “To understand why Asian Americans—and in particular, Asian American women—lack visibility and vocality, it is necessary to comprehend the Asian culture that leads to the imperceptibility of Asian women. It is also important to understand immigrant history to see how the hiddenness and silence of Asian Americans are embedded into the very fabric of white dominant society” (11). And again: “Though Asian American women may not remember or have access to the generations of pain that preceded them, bred them, and sculpted the world in which they live, it remains in the shadows of their identities and the very blood of their veins” (38). This quote demonstrates the appropriateness for this book to be used in an ethics class as it not only highlights the concept of generational trauma/inherited trauma but also how ideologies and actions of the past live on in contemporary society.
Another feature of the book that is greatly appreciated is her discussion of sexism as a woman of color in an ethnic church. While her experience is rooted in the Korean Presbyterian Church, the experience of seeing women in the parish kitchen while men handle other parts of a parish event is something many people, regardless of race, can appreciate and relate to (105). Her use of this example highlights how sexism can exist in the way individuals understand their role within the Church based on their gender.
In her last chapter (138–149), Kim digs into her Korean culture and introduces to the reader four Korean concepts that would help remedy this experience of invisibility and build a theology of visibility: chi, jeong, han, and ou-ri. This is certainly a helpful start to this endeavor. While Kim demonstrates how these four concepts highlight and challenge Asian American women’s invisibility, the four concepts do not come out of our experience as Asian American women. Instead of four Korean concepts, are there Asian American concepts (concepts or ways of being in the world that emerges out of the bicultural Asian American experience) that can challenge or fight invisibility? Does the Asian American culture and experience have anything to contribute in terms of tools to develop a theology of visibility?
FIONA MAY KAY LI, Regis College
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