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Ep#47: On Asian American history, activism, and solidarity with Rebecca Kinney

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

What is the work and how do you know if you're doing it?

For transracial adoptees and people of colour, the past 18 months have felt like an emotional gauntlet. At least, they have for us. From the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, which saw a surge of the Black Lives Matter movement, to rising anti-Asian racism and the Atlanta shootings, to the disparate impacts of COVID-19 due to systemic racism and chronic underfunding in public health, there's been a lot to reckon with.

To keep educating ourselves, and in the hopes of continuing and deepening some of our earlier conversations on race and the fight for racial justice, we reached out to our friend, Korean American adoptee Rebecca Kinney.

Rebecca is an Associate Professor in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies and American Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. She is the author of numerous articles and the book Beautiful Wasteland: The Rise of Detroit as America’s Postindustrial Frontier (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). She is a Fulbright Scholar Korea (2021-2022) and currently lives in Seoul.

This is a thought-provoking, in-depth conversation that traverses the historical, personal, and political. First, she starts with a 20-minute primer on Asian American racial formation and settler colonialism - kind of like an audio lecture. Then Rebecca talks about finding her own ethnic identity as a Korean adoptee from the white working class suburbs of Detroit, before we discuss the barriers to solidarity amongst Asian Americans and POCs, and how we might confront anti-black racism as Asian adoptees. Finally, Rebecca talks about living in Korea and her current Fulbright research, before we end with an extended random question segment. We learned a lot from Rebecca and we hope you do too.

To learn more about Rebecca’s work: visit or get in touch at

Donate to the Black Lives Matter Movement here:

And for Rebecca's reading and resources recommendations list, see below!!

Rebecca's Reading & Resources Recs:


The Making of Asian American, Erika Lee

Immigrant Acts, Lisa Lowe

Impossible Subjects, Mae Ngai


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Voung

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, Bich Minh Nguyen

The Language of Blood, Jane Jeong Trenka

Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston


No-No Boy, John Okada

The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri

America is the Heart, Carlos Bulosan

Films Rebecca regularly teaches for Intro to Asian American Studies

Asian Americans, PBS Documentary, Episodes 1-5

The Fall of the I-Hotel

My America…Or Honk if you Love Buddha

First Person Plural: A Korean Adoptee Bravely Unites Her Biological and Adoptive Families library processing copy

Spencer Nakasako’s Trilogy

Harold and Kumar go to White Castle

The Namesake

Better Luck Tomorrow

A Village Called Versailles

The Grace Lee Project

Who Killed Vincent Chin?

An American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs


As for organizations, there are many that are doing this work and have long been doing this work of raising awareness, fighting, and advocacy. Rebecca recommends any of these as places for education and also to support financially if you feel called to do so:

Finally, here is a collective community statement that you can sign on to, written and released by Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta and Georgia NAACP.

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