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Quiet Odyssey (A Samuel and Althea Stroum Book) [Paperback]

Mary Paik Lee , Sucheng Chan
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 1990 0295969695 978-0295969695
Mary Paik Lee, born Paik Kuang Sun in 1900, left her native country in 1905, traveling with her parents as a political refugee after Japan imposed control over Korea at the close of the Russo-Japanese War. Her father labored in the sugar plantations of Hawaii for a year and a half before taking his family to California, where Mrs. Lee has lived ever since. Though her father knew the comforts enjoyed by the educated traditional elite in Korea, after emigration he and his family shared the poverty stricken existence endured by thousands of Asian immigrants in early twentieth century America. Mrs. Lee's parents earned their living as farm laborers, tenant farmers, cooks, and janitors, and the family always took in laundry. Her father tried mercury mining until his health gave out. In their turn, Mrs. Lee and her husband farmed, sold produce, and managed apartment buildings.

The author is engagingly outspoken and is extremely observant of her social and natural surroundings. Recounted incidents take on memorable life, as do the sharply etched settings of California's agricultural and mining country. She tells of singular hardship surmounted with resilience and characteristic grace. During much of her life Asian Americans were not treated as full human beings, yet she kept a powerful vision of what the United States could be.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lee's indomitable spirit pervades this absorbing autobiography spanning much of the 20th century. Born in 1900, the author left Korea in 1905 with her family, as political refugees. Among the earliest Korean immigrants to America, they settled in California, where they faced a constant struggle for the bare necessities, living wherever Lee's father could find work, often as an agricultural laborer. In addition to economic adversity, Lee often encountered racism. Determined to attend high school, she endured lectures about "stinking Chinks and dirty Japs." After the attack on Pearl Harbor, she had to stop three teenagers from striking her child. Even such unreasoned hatred could not break Lee who, from the perspective of the 1980s, sees in her children's successes the triumph of a century of cultural change. Chan, author of This Bittersweet Soil and a professor of history and Asian American studies at UC Santa Barbara, supplements the memoir with historical background. Her notes help make this brief, accessible volume a worthwhile addition to the scholarship on Asian American culture. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

In this moving testament, Lee shares with her readers her feelings of growing up poor, Asian, and female. Her story begins in Pyongyang, Korea, as part of a Christian family in the well-to-do upper class. With the occupation of Korea by the Japanese in 1905, the social station and comfort of her family was threatened. Thus they immigrated to America so that one part of the Paik family line would be preserved. Chan's introduction provides a concise and comprehensive review that helps place the author's life history within its global context. Three appendixes shed light on her role as a historiographer in augmenting the text, historical verification, and editorial decisions; a detailed bibliographic essay adds a wealth of well-researched data. An excellent primary source, enhanced by Chan's scholarly additions, that will enrich a variety of subjects such as anthropology, women in history, psychology, and Asian studies. --Dolores M. Steinhauer, Jefferson Sci-Tech, Alexandria, VA

Copyright 1990 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: A Samuel and Althea Stroum Book
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press (January 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295969695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295969695
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I read this book in highschool while living in in Seoul, Korea. I am a Korean-American woman and I found the information in this book to be _invaluable_. Unlike similar historical works such as John Okada's 'No-No Boy' or Sui Sin Far's 'Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Writings', this is pure autobiography (or ethnobiography if you want to be technical). I cannot believe how lucky we are as Americans to get a first-hand account of a Korean-American living in turn of the century America, when there were literally only a handful living in the country at the time. The 'memoirs' are not only highly satisfying in themselves, they serve as anchors to the past in which to begin tracing a discernable branch of Asian-American history. Adds perspective in which to view today's world of American race relations. I think this is necessary reading for anyone who is interested in race, American society, and/or history. Will also appeal to minority activists.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GIves perspective on the lives we lead October 1, 2000
By A Customer
I was assigned Quiet Odyssey for an Asian American studies class, and I was riveted by the clean, simple prose. But the story is far from simple, I admire Mary Paik Lee for her incredible endurance and courage. As a second generation Asian American, my family's roots in the United States are relatively new, but now I realize, that it has been due to Asian Americans like Mary Paik Lee that allow me to lead and pursue the life I wish. Not only is Quiet Odyssey the story of her life, it is also the story of California. It's eye opening to see how much Los Angeles and the rest of California have changed since she first landed here. And lastly, Mary Paik Lee has some incredible spunk to do and say some of the things she did. Impressive.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I am a student from San Francisco State University and this is one of the books that I have to read for my Ethnic Studies Class. I really think this is a book made for student of Ethnic Studies and I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about history of Asian American.
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