Garrett Hongo Sings of America
The first essay in A Sense of Regard: Essays on Poetry and Race is Garrett Hongo's beautiful and nuanced essay, "America Singing: An Address to the Newly Arrived Peoples" . Read his opening:
I am fascinated and thrilled that there has been such a surge of new immigration from across the Pacific these past few years. That, as a country, we are again in the process of being renewed and reformed by the new Americans from Asia and elsewhere. These newly arrived peoples, I know, come not so much from Japan and Okinawa and Guangdong, as did the ancestors of we third and fourth-generation Asian-Americans, but rather they are now coming, in increasing numbers, from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Southeast Asia, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, the Caribbean, Central America, and the Philippines. Their presence has charged our society with energy and change.
When I visit California now, and walk about in the resurgent downtowns of San Jose and Santa Ana, I pass Vietnamese markets, Korean grocery stores, and restaurants for every kind of Pacific/Asian cuisine. When I was teaching at the University of Houston in 1988, I did most of my shopping in a huge supermarket run by Chinese for almost every Asian ethnicity—there was a Korean section, a section for Japanese foods (nappa cabbage, daikon, kamaboko fish cakes and Kal-pis in the coolers), racks and racks of Chinese condiments like chili oil and oyster and plum sauces. I saw what I’ve always loved seeing—bins full of bean threads, bags of sesame seeds in various grades, cellophaned flats of dried seaweed, cans of black beans and bamboo shoots, fifty-pound bags of rice. The smells were gorgeous. The market was in its own little complex of shops—a big parking lot ringed with little storefronts for a travel agency, an optometrist, a records and tapes store, a bookstore, a coffee and dim sum shop, a casual restaurant, and a movie theater that showed chop-sockie Saturday matinees, mildly lurid cheongsam romances weekend nights, and serials all week long.
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