1. Introduction
  2. Problem Statement
  3. Purpose and Scope


  1. Historic Background
  2. Case Study: Korean American Literature


  1. Limitation and Further Studies
  2. Definition of Terms


This web bibliography project of Korean American Literature (KAL) is a follow-up of a paper presented in May 2009 at the Annual Joint Mini-Conference of the REFORMA Northeast Chapter, AILA, APALA, BCALA, and CALA.  It proposed that all minority librarians collaborate to build a web-bibliography of multicultural American literature. By listing all the literary works produced by minority authors, it will demonstrate the diversity that is the hallmark of American society.  A web-bibliography of diverse authors will honor their cultures and values. It will also demonstrate the depth of contributions that people of all backgrounds have been giving to this country.  By promoting multicultural works the web-bibliography will reach out to a wider readership who will arrive at a better appreciation and understanding of the diverse American life styles reflected in American literature.

Problem Statement

There have been many studies discussing the importance of multicultural literature. However, a comprehensive web bibliography of multicultural literature is yet to be found. Each website of five minority librarian associations such as AILA, APALA, BCALA, CALA and REFORMA posts exclusive book lists written by authors of individual minority groups, but none of them comes up in casual Google searches. However, the Google search engine tops web-bibliographies on multicultural literature with obvious errors in them. demonstrates common problems with the usual web bibliographies that the Google search engine brings up.  As of May 2010, it lists forty Korean American authors. However, “Minsu Kang” does not have any entry in WorldCat. One author’s name “Junghyo An” might mean a Korean author whose name was entered as “Chong-hyo An” in the WorldCat authority file.  Twelve authors have no information except their name entries.

Scope and Purpose of This Web Project

This KAL web-bibliography is intended to encompass all American authors who are descendents of Korean immigrants. Books addressing Korean American issues and Korean American characters are also included. It is also being built on an inclusive basis, however, those books written by Korean War veterans and those mysteries or suspense books using North Korea as the fictional “axis of evil” were excluded. Among Korean American authors and poets producing literary works in Korean, only those who have translated at least one monograph in English were included in this bibliography. Identifying and indicating the sheer numbers of books written by Korean Americans itself will empower Korean Americans, who have suffered from various misrepresentations that have stigmatized them as perpetual outsiders and enlighten the general public who call them “aliens,” to build healthy racial outlooks.

Historic Background

The US civil rights movement in the1960s was also the period when Asian Americans started to emerge from their status as an “invisible minority” in the United States. Li Zhang (2009), a professor well known for her expertise in Asian America literature and women’s studies, found that the development and spread of multiculturalism awakened Asian Americans to partake in the outbreak of the Third World Students’ Strike at San Francisco State University in 1968. Professor Zhang wrote that during 1968 and 1969, “Asian American students took part in the longest student movement in the history of the United States and argued that college education should consider the need of minority groups, and that the history of their ancestries be recognized and taught in the curriculum”(Zhang, 2009, p. 731).

While decades of those struggles and efforts have improved the status of minorities in American society, the idea of multicultural inclusion of differences itself has been challenged. Some accuse that multiculturalism has been manipulated to falsely project America as an ideal country. Others argue that the idea of cultural diversity “tends to reduce immigrants to essentially different ethnic groups and implicitly fosters cultural separatism” (Chae, 2008, p. xii). Another criticism comes directly from our lifestyles: given the fact that literature is one of the most distinctive cultural artifacts of a society, it is to reflect multicultural aspects of our daily lives. In a time when people describe the world ever shrinking and the Internet links people around the world so closely, any try to define one hue of the multi-dimensional spectrum of the twenty-first century lifestyles can be seen outdated.

However, beyond those political or social arguments, there is a critical value to discovering commonalities and differences among different groups and their experiences. Alice Hsu, an American-born Chinese teacher, wrote how she failed to inspire her immigrant Chinese students with the stories of Martin Luther King’s famous speeches. She explained the vulnerability of the young minds considering themselves as outsiders and her hard search for books that “provide reflections” of her students (Hsu, 1995). Her desperate search for Chinese American literature accords well with the main arguments of Mingshui Cai, the author of various books on multi-cultural literature for children and young adults. He argues that separating multicultural literature from the general literature is “a much-needed, separate category,” not to treat any one of them as “the norm” and the other “alien.” He sees a critical factor that from the points of “marginalized ethnic groups, multicultural literature is not alien, but it represents their world, reflecting their images and voices” (Cai, 2002).

Case Study: Korean American Literature

For the general public, the term “Asian Americans” mostly refers to people of Chinese and Japanese origins, even if more people are immigrating from the Philippines, Vietnam and Korea. Worst of all, “Asian Americans tend to be lumped together as a group, despite great differences between Asian countries and their culture often caused splits among Asian American groups” (Zhang, 2009, p.731). Difficulties in finding books written by Korean American authors demonstrate the problems of Euro-centric American minds ignoring the diverse cultures and nations of Asia, the world’s largest and most populous continent.

The first Korean immigrants to the United States arrived in Hawaii as plantation workers in January 1903. The very history of Korean American communities reflects social and political changes both in Korea and America. As Korea evolved through liberations from Japanese imperialism and the Korean War, and as American immigration laws have changed, Korean American communities have expanded and they began to publish their stories in English since 1922 without much attention from the general public.

Celebrating the centennial of Korean American immigration in 2004, Elaine H. Kim, one of the foremost authorities in Asian American literature, predicted dramatic increases in literary activity among Korean Americans. She attributes two factors for the “the fierce and sudden boom of Korean American cultural activity" (Kim, 2004, p.17). She sees the fact that “for the first time a sizable generation of US-educated Korean Americans fluent in English has come of age” to be one. The experience of Los Angeles riots in 1992 is the other.

The recent flux of Korean American literary works, however, has not raised any visible awareness in the mainstream literary world yet. Finding books written by Korean American authors is still a challenge. The Library of Congress subject headings “Korean American” and “Korean American literature” are not well defined, bringing up books on the Korean War when searching WorldCat. Most literary discussions of Korean American literary or cultural achievements appear only as a part of Asian American or multiethnic literature. Titles written by Korean American authors are not categorized in any way to relate them to Korean American interests. One of the most reliable methods is browsing books written by authors with common Korean family names. However, tracing Korean American authors by their last names creates some problems. Korean family names are often identical or very similar to Chinese ones. Another problem is the Romanization of Korean letters. Because they do not have their exact counterparts in the Roman alphabet, some Korean last names are virtually “translated,” losing their identities. Worst of all, some Korean American female writers give up their maiden names losing their linkage to Koreans among the millions of American writers.


To compile this Web-bibliography, various methods were used to identify Korean American literary works. Korean American anthologies both in English and Korean have been studied, such as Kŏri: The Beacon anthology of Korean American fiction by Fenkl (2001), Surfacing sadness: A centennial of Korean-American literature, 1903-2003 by Ch'oe (2003), and Miguk sosu minjok munhak ŭi ihae: Han'gukkye p'yŏn by Yu (2001). Various literary criticisms on Korean American literature, such as Korean American Literature by Kim-Renaud (2003) were studied.

Multiple Encyclopedias on Asian American or multicultural or ethnic literature examined include The Greenwood encyclopedia of Asian American literature by Huang (2009), Encyclopedia of Asian-American literature by Oh (2007) and Asian American writers by Madsen (2005). Diverse literary databases and electronic journals, including Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database and School Library Journal were searched with a combination of “Korean American” and one of the following terms such as, literature, fiction, young adult literature, juvenile literature, children’s books, poetry, and graphic novels.

All entries were checked against WorldCat to conform.  When any book title or author was linked to Korean American issues, extensive web searches were conducted to validate that the author is a decedent of Korean immigrants.  After categorizing all findings by genre, basic publication information such as publication year, audience level, formats were added in the five separated lists by genre.


This web-bibliography is conducted as a research project required for all graduate students working for Masters Degree in Library and Information Science Studies at Queens College, New York. This Website is submitted as a protocol: due to the time constrains, only the “Fiction" bibliography has been completed as of May 2010.

As fiction reflects reality, the followings are observed by listing fiction titles for the “Fiction List” of KAL bibliography.

1. The list of Korean Fiction itself reflects the history of the Korean American Community.

KAL bibliography lists Hansu’s Journey (1922) by Philip Jaisohn as the first KA work of fiction. It is an example of monographs published in English by the first generation of KA authors who were highly educated intellectuals and primarily wrote autobiographies.

2. As shown in the following chart, an influx of Korean American literary works has been published in the last two decades.


3. Korean America Literature has been breaking borders of Korean American ethnicity.

As minority authors are perceived to write about their ethnicity or the tough entry rituals of immigrant lives, some Korean American authors launch their careers by crystallizing their de-rooted experiences settling in a new world.  In An Na’s first novel, A step from heaven, Young Ju immigrated at four describes credible stories of her American experience as an American-raised child of new Korean immigrants. However, data in the KAL “Fiction List” shows that the numbers of biographies have been decreasing. As the immigrant history of Korean Americans stretches past over a hundred years, more Korean American authors choose to write about topics beyond their ethnicity and immigrant experiences. Ed Park's first work, Personal days (2008) “is narrated by a collective we of youngish Manhattan office grunts.” Janice Lee's debut title The piano teacher (2008) relates the story of an Englishman and his affair in Eurasian Hong Kong in 1952.

4. Another noticeable factor is books written by Korean American adoptees.

Over 100,000 Korean have crossed the Pacific as adoptees to the United States since the Korean War that ended in 1953. In 2008 alone, 1,065 Korean children were adopted indicating that Koreans of all ages ranging in age from infancy to their 50s live in this country as inter-racial adoptees. Books related to Korean adoptee started to appear in 1960 and in fiction genre alone, twenty nine titles are related to them. Two anthologies by those adoptees, Seeds from a silent tree and Voices from another place were published in 1995 and 1997.

5. Publication about refugees from North Korea

As North Korean refugees manage to reach western nations, their stories began to appear. Two popular ones are The aquariums of Pyongyang: ten years in the north Korean gulag (2000) by Chol-hwan Kang and Hyejin Kim’s first fiction, Jia: a novel of North Korea (2007).


1. Limitations and Further Studies

Because of time constraints, this project is limited to identifying literary works by Korean Americans. However, to eliminate the common problems of bibliographies, all books should be read and checked for its authenticity instead of relying on book reviews. Information about individual Korean American authors and their books will be researched and annotated in a separate web page. 

Promoting individual award winning bestsellers or posting exclusive book lists of individual minority groups would not collect much attention from the general public. However, it will generate a collective power when books about minority groups are gathered and promoted as "Multicultural Literature."  This is one way to bring attention to multicultural literature which otherwise might be lost in the wide sea of websites.  Discovered and presented as cultural products from certain minority groups, multicultural literature will find a wider audience, and soon the readers will find lives reflected in those books to be the integral parts of American experience.

2. Definition of Terms
  • #: Symbol given to books that raise issues about cultural authenticity or fair representations of Korean Americans.
  • B.A. Thesis: Literary work submitted for a Bachelor's Degrees in Fine Art of creative writing, but have not been published
  • CA: Chinese American
  • Chapter Books: Books divided by short chapter for new independent readers
  • Fiction:  All fiction including books for young adults
  • Illustrator: Those noted in etc. column when illustrator's name is given in author's column
  • JA: Japanese American
  • KA: Korean American
  • KA Characters: One or more characters in the books are happen to be Korean American.
  • KAL: Korean American Literature
  • Korean Americans: Descendents of Korean immigrants
  • Korean Name (Author's): Korean Authors' names are added in Korean
  • Korean Titles (한글 제목): Original titles was given when adopted or translated. When Korean version was available, its translated Korean title was given for further references.
  • Manwha: Korean graphic novels
  • Middle Grade: School children between eight and twelve years old.
  • M.F.A. Thesis: Literary work submitted for a Master's Degree in Fine Art of creative writing, but have not been published
  • Picture books: Heavily illustrated books for early readers and young children
  • Poetry: All literary publication in verse
  • Young Adults: School aged teenagers who are older than twelve.

Bishoff, T., & Rankin, J. (1997). Seeds from a silent tree
: An anthology.
Glendale, CA: Pandal Press.

Cai, M. (2006). Multicultural literature for children and
young adults: Reflections on critical issues. Contributions
to the study of world literature, no. 116. West port,
Conn: Greenwood Press.

Chae, Y. (2008). Politicizing Asian American literature
: Towards a critical multiculturalism
. New York:

Ch’oe, Y.-h., & Kim, H.-j. (2003). Surfacing sadness:
A centennial of Korean-American literature, 1903-2003
Dumont, N.J.: Homa & Sekey Books.

Climo, S., & Heller, R., 1924-. (1993). The Korean
Cinderella. New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers.

Cox, S. S.-K. (1999). Voices from another place:
A collection of works from a generation born in Korea
and adopted to other countries.
St. Paul, Minn:
Yeong & Yeong Book.

Fenkl, H. I., & Lew, W. K. (2001). Kŏri: The Beacon
anthology of Korean American fiction
. Boston:
Beacon Press.

Hardy, L. (2003). Between two worlds: A novel.
Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Hsu, A. (1995, March/April). It’s our train. 
Horn Book Magazine, 71 (2), 240-246.

Huang, G. (2009).The Greenwood encyclopedia of Asian
American literature. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

Jaisohn, P. (1922). Hansu's journey: A Korean story.
Philadelphia: Copyrighted by Philip Jaisohn &. Co.

Kang, C.-h., & Rigoulot, P. (2005). The aquariums of
Pyongyang: Ten years in the North Korean gulag.
New York: Basic Books.

Kim, E. H. (2004). Roots and Wings: an over view of
Korean American Literature 1934-2003.
In Kim-Renaud, Y. (Ed.), Korean American literature.
(pp. 1-18).

Kim, H. (2007). Jia: A novel of North Korea.
San Francisco: Cleis Press. Lee, H. (2003, March 10).
A decent story with somewhat offensive illustrations

Lee, J. Y. K. (2008). The piano teacher: A novel.
New York: Viking Penguin.

Madsen, D. L. (2005). Asian American writers.
Dictionary of literary biography, v. 312.
Farmington Hills, Mich: Thomson Gale

Na, A. (2001).A step from heaven.
Asheville, NC: Front Street.

Oh, S. (2007). Encyclopedia of Asian-American literature.
Facts on File library of American literature.
New York: Facts On File.

Yu, S.-m. (2001). Miguk sosu minjok munhak ŭi ihae:
Hangukkye pyŏn. Sŏul Tŭkpyŏlsi: Sinasa.

Zhang, L. (2009). Multiculturalism and Asian America.
In Huang, G. (Eds.), The Greenwood Encyclopedia
of Asian American Literature (Vol. 2, pp. 728-731).