This is my latest post for Feminist Studies in Religion on Co-writing: Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style”. This new book is co-written with Dr. Joseph Cheah and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
This is the first book in the Palgrave Book Series, “Asian Christianity in the Diaspora”. We are seeking proposals and book manuscripts.
When I was a Ph.D. candidate almost twenty years ago, I had big dreams. I had dreams that I would write great books. I would write lots of them. I dreamed about collaborating on some books with senior scholars, editing textbooks and having a wonderful life making a difference with my books. I even dreamed that some of my books will become bestsellers.
Twenty years ago, I was naïve and very young. I didn’t know much about the real world and even less about the publishing world. However, I think it is quite all right for young students to dream big and have good thoughts and visions about their futures.
When I had shared some of my dreams with my advisor, he told me how difficult it is to co-write a book. He said that he co-wrote a book with his wife of over thirty years. He said that the entire process from the beginning to the end was extremely painful. He actually said, “By the end of the writing process, we are still lucky to be married to each other.” He said that it was that painful and difficult to write a book together. He said that there are lots of give and take, lots of arguments and lots of disagreements. His lesson from the co-writing experience was to never do it again with his wife or anyone else.
I remember that particular dialogue with my advisor as if it happened just yesterday. I always cherished all the advice given by my advisor and this particular conversation has remained with me. He was a wise professor with lots of life experience and so I always welcomed his wisdom and life suggestions.
Fast forward to today. I have written several books, but no ‘bestsellers.’ I have co-edited a volume and believe I have made a little contribution to the theological world. However, it has been a recent experience in co-writing that has had me thinking once again about the advice given to me—the ways in which it has rung true, but more importantly, how it has been ultimately a rewarding experience.
I have now just finished co-writing a book with a friend, Dr. Joseph Cheah, chair of the Religious Studies department at the University of St. Joseph. Dr. Cheah is a brilliant man who is the author of Race and Religion in American Buddhism(2011). I respect him as a scholar, author and friend.
We began the process of co-writing about a year ago. We talked endlessly about what we could possibly write about. We both study in the areas of Asian American theology, Christianity and religion. We both have written about racism, sexism and white privilege. We have similar interests and life goals. After months of discussion, we began examining the phenomena of “Gangnam Style” and the singer Psy.
Psy took the world by storm and people were imitating his dancing and singing all over television, YouTube and other social media. There was plenty of critique and analysis.
However, the critique that was missing was the racial, sexual and cultural critique from Asian Americans.
The implications of Asian and Asian American pop culture is an important area of research that interested both Joseph and myself for some time. We finally came up with a book idea and pitched it to our editor who felt that we had something important to say.
We started writing and found that there were many obstacles to overcome. We have different writing habits, different writing styles, and different deadlines in our minds. We had to learn quickly to ‘give and take’ and compromise. We had to mutually trust one other that we would each be able to produce or contribute to the book as we had promised to each other. While complications such as funerals for family members and friends, health problems, family obligations and church duties slowed our progress, but we somehow managed to persevere. We managed to understand each other, to compliment each other, and to finish writing the book.
When I look back even six months ago, I had my doubts of ever completing our book. I had anxiety and fearful thoughts that this may be a book which we would be unable to submit to our editor. At the end of the day, I think it was a miracle that we were able to complete the manuscript.
More surprisingly, we are still friends and I have gained a deeper, stronger and greater respect for Joseph Cheah, not only as an Asian American scholar and professor, but as a dear friend who has continuously prayed for me and supported me as his collaborator. For that, I am greatly thankful.
I would not have replaced this experience with anything else in the world. I can equally say that I am blessed and richer for having worked with Joseph Cheah and that I’ve benefitted from the co-writing experience over and against the advice given to me so long ago. I’d like to imagine that my younger self would be pleased to know that some of her idealism has rung true for her.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University. She is the author of 6 books, Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style” co-written with Joseph Cheah, Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers (Palgrave), Contemplations from the Heart (Wipf & Stock), Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press). She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.