Steph Cha
Korean-American literature

How to Cite

WILLEMS, B. D. (2021). BITTERNESS AND RECOGNITION: ROOM FOR OTHERS IN THE NOVELS OF STEPH CHA. International Journal of Korean Humanities and Social Sciences, 7, 37–60.


The novels of Steph Cha posit two key characteristics for openness toward others: bitterness and recognition. The thesis of this paper is that both characteristics must be present together in order for openness to occur. Cha’s Juniper Song detective series (2013-15), as well as her stand-alone novel Your House Will Pay (2019), foreground the role that bitterness and recognition play in an openness of Korean-Americans to other American people of color. Following the work of Jacques Rancière and Axel Honneth, bitterness is seen as a characteristic that keeps recognition from falling into the oppressive traps of one group only recognizing the pre-established modes of identity of another. Cha’s novels insist on moments of bitterness within scenes of recognition, thus showing how both characteristics, together, form an essential way for a positive openness to another to be possible. Other Korean-American authors discussed include Cathy Park Hong, Caroline Kim, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.


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