Reviewed by: Eunil David Cho is a doctoral student in the graduate division of religion at Emory University.
Mark Chung Hearn’s Religious Experience Among Second Generation Korean Americans is a valuable addition to the rapidly growing body of scholarly works in the field of Asian American theology and religious history. Hearn focuses on the lived experiences of second-generation Korean American men, and explores the role of faith in navigating their multiple senses of identity as Korean American men, Christians, and spiritual beings. Engaging resources from various disciplines to examine Korean American men as “complex sociohistorical beings,” Hearn makes a practical theological claim that Korean American men need individual and communal healing (2). What are some of the unresolved tensions and pains that Korean American men often struggle in their faith journey? How can faith leaders help these men to develop healthier understandings of manhood? How can Christian communities become safe places of healing and restoration for Korean American men?
Seeking to answer these vital questions, Hearn critically engages with “multiple lenses to comprehend the vast experiences and realities of Korean American men and the communities in which they participate” (2). After stating the necessity for close examination of the religious experience among second generation Korean American men in chapter 1, Hearn situates Korean American men within the larger US history by giving the historical overview of Asian American experiences from the late 1800s in chapter 2. Hearn carefully narrates how Asian Americans’ racial and ethnic identities have been socio-culturally constructed by the mainstream media. These stereotypical representations of Asian Americans—such as “the Model Minority” and “the Forever Foreigner”—have been injurious in that these “compile all Asian Americans into one category when in reality, it is a heterogeneous group with varying histories, cultures and classes” (20). In chapter 3, Hearn investigates the narratives of second-generation Korean American men to explore the limitation imposed by the larger society in pursuit of their notions of manhood. In the interview analysis, Hearn demonstrates how Korean American men’s socially constructed racial and ethnic identity have created barriers in both their professional workplace and social standing.
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