The history of Koreans in America as told through the remarkable life story of one Korean American woman
Doing What Had to Be Done
The Life Narrative of Dora Yum Kim
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The first biography of an American-born Korean woman, Doing What Had to Be Done is, on the surface, the life story of Dora Yum Kim. But telling more than one woman's story, author Soo-Young Chin offers more than an unusual glimpse at the shaping of a remarkable community activist. In additionas she questions her subject, introduces each chapter, and reflects on how Dora's story relates to her own experience as a Korean-American who immigrated to this country as an adultshe carves around Dora's compelling and courageous life story, a story of her own and one of all Korean-Americans.
Born in 1921, Dora, as she tells Chin her story, chronicles the shifting salience of gendered ethnic identity as she journeys through her life. Traveling through time and place, she moves from San Francisco's Chinatownwhere Koreans were a minority within a minorityto suburban Dewey Boulevard where Dora and her family attempt to integrate into mainstream America and where she becomes a social worker in the California State Department of Employment. As the Korean immigrant community grows in the late 1960s, Dora becomes deeply involved in community service. She remembers teaching English to senior citizens and preparing them for their naturalization exams, finding jobs for the younger Koreans, and founding a community center and meals program for seniors.
A detailed and inspiring lens through which to view Korean-American history, Dora's life journey echoes the changing spaces of the American social landscape. The grace and ease with which Dora just "does what has to be done" shows us the importance of everyday acts in making a difference.
"My entire life has been a struggle against racial and sexual discrimination. In my lifetime I've washed dishes at my parents' restaurant in Chinatown and ridden in presidential motorcades. I've been prevented from leaving Chinatown and traveled all around the world....When you have to struggle for survival, you learn that there are things you just have to do...."
"I have always been an outsider in the various contexts in which I have lived, and that I feel somewhat misplaced in the academic setting is not surprising.... I suspect that the only place I will feel comfortable is writing of the margins from the margins."
"...a wonderfully nuanced portrait of the lives of Koreans and Korean Americans in the US, as well as a powerful meditation on the meanings of "Americanness" in the late twentieth century. [Chin] also addresses theoretical issues relating to traditions of Western and Asian autobiographyand ethnography in terms a non-anthropologist can grasp, while the footnotes add another layer of analysis for the specialist."
The Tuesday, October 11th issue of the San Francisco Chronicle contained Dora Yum Kim's obituary, which identified her as the subject of Doing What Had To Be Done.
Part I: Chinatown, San Francisco
Part II: Dewey Boulevard
Part III: A Room of Her Own
In the series
Asian American History and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan, David Palumbo-Liu, Michael Omi, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Vő.
The "standard" written histories of Asian immigrants to the United States have been imbued with Western cultural biases. As a critique and corrective to earlier work, Asian American History and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan, David Palumbo-Liu, Michael Omi, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Vő, aims to develop a history of Asian Americans that is compatible with their own experience, that treats Asian Americans as agents of historical change and as creators of a new culture. In addition, this series intends to focus on the groups that are flourishing in the contemporary U.S.Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnameseabout whom little has been written as well as to add to the substantial work done on the Chinese and Japanese in this country.