I am Korean-American
Updated: Aug 27
A couple summers ago,
a bunch of friends came over to cheer on Korea for the World Cup.
My couch was a sea of red shirts.
The energy was like sparkling water
spilling out of a cup.
I don’t have much interest in sports
but the spirit they generate is like the song of a siren
drawing you in.
I heard once, that in Korean, during World Cup days,
you can hear cheers from apartments over.
No one cares because they, themselves
are too busy cheering.
I’ve never experienced it but I imagine
the cheers at my house were the kind they hear in Korea.
There are times like that
when I know I have a place I belong,
know that there’s a thread that ties me to people.
In some ways
company is more comforting than anything else.
But not in all ways.
Sometimes, company is like a fly.
Pesky but also
Impossible to swat away.
Like when I’m in Korea
and someone asks “Where are you from?”
and I say, “America.”
and they start speaking to me in English.
Just because I’m from America!
I want to shout
I can speak Korean well!
But I can’t
because I know that I can’t speak Korean
just as well.
And that leads me to fear that one day I will forget
one culture and language completely.
I see myself wandering dizzily along the streets
speaking the wrong language to the wrong person
no one understanding.
I can’t stand the thought of losing even one part of me
because I have such pride and love in both.
Is it possible for me to have both Korea and America?
Somehow, I know this
like a whisper I can only sense:
Both cultures are mine.
The one known for burgers
and the one known for kimchi.
Both are mine.
I’m not Korean
I’m not American
I am Korean-American.
Bio: Katherine Lee is a rising seventh grader in Virginia. She enjoys writing all sorts of things, from poetry to memoirs to song lyrics. Katherine can often be found curled up in a chair, reading a book. Some of her favorite authors are Marissa Meyer, Veronica Roth, Victoria Aveyard, and Gail Carson Levine. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, watching TV, singing songs, dancing, and spending time with her family.
Note: This is the first piece in the Incandescent Summer Studio series featuring mentees' writing.