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Teacher Lesson Return to "My Korean Boyfriend"
My Korean Boyfriend
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Lesson for “My Korean Boyfriend”

The writer came here from Korea five years ago, and has become “too Americanized” in the eyes of her Korean boyfriend. But his complaint is not that she speaks English, or celebrates Thanksgiving. Instead, he doesn’t like her independence, her outgoingness, or her open display of emotion, all of which are not in the Korean “spirit”—especially for a woman.

She writes, “Korean men like to tell their wives and girlfriends what to do. He would always tell me how to dress and a how to act in front of others.... I would complain that I was not his little toy and that he couldn’t just order me around.

“When I would go against his wishes, Kevin would say, ‘Why are you so Americanized?’”

Ask your students: Is equal rights for women part of being an American? Is being outgoing and independent part of the American spirit? What if your own culture required women to stay in narrow roles, or required that emotions be repressed? Would it be a betrayal of your culture to change in the ways that the writer is changing? Do they think she will lose her Korean heritage? Will that be good or bad?

Ask students to describe the author’s view of Americanism. To her, being an American means accepting and sharing the best of all the different cultures that meet here—such as the affection of her Hispanic friends. For her, being an American means retaining aspects of her Korean identity while simultaneously incorporating aspects of other cultures. She is proud of being Korean without being “Korean-centric.” She is eager to incorporate aspects of American culture, but without submerging herself in the melting pot.

It may be difficult for your students understand the writer's sophisticated multiculturalism. Most students are in an either/or mode. She is comfortable with aspects of several cultural worlds—Korean, Hispanic, “feminist,” etc.—and she sees value in all of them.
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(NYC-1991-11-06a)

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