DELI IDEOLOGY: A NOVEL
by Grace Jung
In this debut novel from author Grace Jung, questions of race, identity, and history are constantly challenged and examined through the eyes of a 23-year-old Korean-American woman navigating the unpredictable landscapes of New York City and Seoul.
LJ has just returned from a year-long residency in Seoul with a manuscript of translated Korean short fiction that publishers have all turned down. To get by in the city, she juggles two jobs: a copyeditor 5 days a week, and on the weekends, a cashier at a deli in Midtown, where patrons challenge and objectify her based on her looks as an Asian woman. While dealing with pressures to make a decision between her career path and her goal as a writer in an economically depressed state, she makes mental escapes back to her past life in Seoul and the times she spent with Daniel. These memories offer up cues to her self-discovery as an artist, regardless of her background and what lies before her. By simply recognizing herself as a writer, she realizes that alone is a stable basis for her to continue forward; LJ doesn’t feel so oppressed by her future anymore; in fact, she feels liberated.
We at the AAAF have long covered the minority myth which is how the stereotype that Asians are hard-working immigrants who’ve great success owed to hard work in America isn’t widespread truth across our whole community. While we’re proud to have had many successes here, the stereotype disservices many in our community, causing additional hardship which is unnecessary & unhelpful. Also, the myth is largely the result of whites wanting to portray Asians in a way they find helpful to their cause which isn’t our telling our story, it’s whites hijacking it.
Deli Ideology also brings to my mind the problem of the taboo of mental health. Conservative political post-mass-shooting rhetoric is already ruining the cause of funding mental health properly but Asian-American taboo about mental health is a special hurt to the cause in our community. Books like Deli Ideology bring mental health struggles from pariah and shame to daily acceptable human stories.
Lastly, Deli Ideology is a good reminder that our cause of representing AAPIs in public better is also serviced by representing AAPIs together better. The community is large, varied, colorful, and deserving of our intelligent attention.