Saturday, November 23, 2013

thank you, America

My mother's Korean name was Kim Suk-ja. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, a sister-act singing group called The Kim Sisters rose to prominence—perhaps an early example of the so-called Korean Wave. Of the three sisters in that group, the eldest was also named Kim Sook-ja (note the different romanization). I'm poring over a 75-page interview transcript with Mrs. Kim from 1996 (Kim was 55 at the time); she appeared along with her sisters on "The Ed Sullivan Show" twenty-two times—quite possibly the most that any given act ever appeared on that show. At one point in the interview, my mother's namesake says the following:

I was not born here, and I was not spoiled. I come from nothing and I came to this country with God's help and my mother's, and I feel that I am so fortunate to be here in the U.S.A. I've been around the world three times and I've seen it all, but there is no place like the U.S.A., and this is the honest truth. Unfortunately, people who've been living here all their lives, they didn't go anywhere. It's hard for them to visualize what it's like to me. I feel bad for them, but they don't know any better. You following me? So, I cannot say they're wrong or they're right, but my image of America was more than I even dreamt about, you know, and I would like to show everybody as a mother, as a woman, as performer, that all I know is that I am grateful.


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