Biting the Hand: Growing Up Asian in Black and White America (Hardcover)
In the vein of Eloquent Rage and Minor Feelings—a passionate, no-holds-barred memoir about the Asian American experience in a nation defined by racial stratification
When Julia Lee was fifteen, her hometown went up in smoke over a series of days that became the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The daughter of Korean immigrant store owners in a predominantly Black neighborhood, Julia was taught to be grateful for the privilege afforded to her. She attended an upper-class private school on financial aid. And yes, she was treated like an outsider, but she was never seen as a threat. However, the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, followed by the murder of Latasha Harlins by a Korean shopkeeper, forced Julia to question her own racial identity and complicity. She was neither Black nor white. So who was she?
This question would follow Julia for years to come, resurfacing as she traded in her tumultuous childhood for the white upper echelon of elite academia, more out of place than ever before. It was only when she began a PhD in English that she found answers—not in Brontë or Austen, as Julia had planned, but rather in the combative, brilliant prose of writers like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. Their works gave Julia the vocabulary and, more important, the permission to critically examine her own tortured position as an Asian American, setting off a powerful journey of racial reckoning, atonement, and self-discovery that has shaped her adult life.
With prose by turns scathing and heart-wrenching, Julia lays bare the disorientation and shame that stem from this country’s imposed racial hierarchy to argue that Asian Americans and others who float in between must leverage their liminality for lasting social change. Biting the Hand is an urgent, overdue manifesto for today’s world, bringing Asian Americans into conversations about race alongside Black and brown communities and redefining what it means to be American.
About the Author
Julia Lee is a Korean American writer, scholar, and teacher. She is the author of Our Gang: A Racial History of “The Little Rascals” and The American Slave Narrative and the Victorian Novel, as well as the novel By the Book. She is an associate professor of English at Loyola Marymount University, where she teaches African American and Caribbean literature. She lives with her family in Los Angeles.