Korean-American

“Fire Illness” is Named Runner-Up

My first short story, “Fire Illness,” has just been published. It was named Runner-Up in the 2016 Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize hosted by Hunger Mountain, the literary Journal of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Matt Bell was the guest judge.

For the record, I first started sending this story out for publication in April 2015. After the first round of rejections, I revised it repeatedly over the ensuing months with help from online critique partners through Inked Voices, and from other writers in Naomi Williams’s Writing Salon here in Davis. Over the course of two years, I sent the story to twenty-five publications before it found recognition at Hunger Mountain.

I love this story and am glad it finally found a life outside my computer, so to speak. It is published on the Hunger Mountain website and you can read it here. If you read it and have any thoughts you want to share, please feel free to let me know.

Posted by Scott Alumbaugh in Fiction, Korean-American, 0 comments

A Joyless Existence

Immigrant EntrepreneursLately, I have been reading background material – books, blogs, news articles – on the Korean American experience. I am working on a novel that involves the 1992 Rodney King Riots (sa-i-gu, in Korean: the April 29th Incident) as background, and more specifically, the experience of Korean Americans during and after the Riots. Though I thought I had some understanding, I wanted to fill out my picture. This is especially important for Yong Soo Bok, a character in the novel  who has since become the subject of a short story (tentatively titled, “Fire Illness”).

I have never studied Korean or Korean American culture before. As I learn more, I am somewhat embarrassed by how much I let mainstream media tell me what I should think. Everything I’ve read, especially works published after the Riots, seems aimed to dispel stereotypes and replace them with a fuller picture of Korean Americans as (displaced) individuals.

One of the misconceptions is that Korean Americans are more or less natural entrepreneurs, which is why they’ve thrived as such in America. Nothing seems to be further from the truth. One book in particular put this in perspective for me:  Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965-1982 (Light and Bonacich). After a long, exhaustive, largely dry (but engaging) work of research, the book ends with an almost poetic plea for understanding the difficulties endured by Korean immigrants. In many ways, the book is summed up in one sentence:

Being an immigrant entrepreneur is a joyless existence.

Now, my job as a writer is somehow to relate that simple declarative sentence to readers in a way that is accurate (because it’s an important story) and entertaining (so the reader will read to the end), but without being exploitative (seeing as I have no connection to the Korean American experience).

Posted by Scott Alumbaugh in Korean-American, 9 comments