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Volume 23 / No. 1 / 2012
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Cornell University
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At Cornell

Through the Lens of an Undergraduate Writer

Ashley Woo ’12
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For a fresh take on the immigrant generation gap story, the obstinate father speaks out in fiction.

“We have to write support letters, Dad, it’s just part of going on mission trips.”

Support letters? To other Korean adults in the congregation? Begging for money? No.

Was it so his son could write to those clucking ajumas and harrumphing ajushis for alms that he had worked tirelessly for the past 25 years? When was the last time he had taken a day off for sickness? Had he ever slept in late on a Saturday morning? Work, church, work, church, the cycle of his honest and hard weeks stretched behind him like a statue erected to the steadfastness of his character, the virtue of his sacrifice.

Had he not worked himself to the bone, and then to the very marrow, so that his children could study at competitive schools, gain the advantage he had never had, fulfill the American Dream that he had crossed the oceans for 25 years ago, with nothing in his pockets and a silent bride by his side, twisting and twisting the map of New York between her trembling fingers?

He had built all of this up for them from the pitiless ground—the very lives they lived. And yet they were so unappreciative. He sighed, his heart heavy with pity.

“Dad, you’re so proud!” his youngest son had cried out in adolescent throes of despair. “All you care about is your image, your reputation. How can you be so materialistic and go to church every Sunday? You never understand me!”

Never understand? Who didn’t understand?

— “Mr. Jeong Gets a Haircut”

***
Depending on the reader’s perspective, “Mr. Jeong Gets a Haircut” can either be a scathing satire or a heartbreaking story of an immigrant family. Ashley Woo ’12, undergraduate English major, does not tell her readers which it should be.

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