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Religion and Spirituality in Korean America (Asian American Experience)
University of Illinois Press, 2008
256 pp., $28.00
God's New Whiz Kids?: Korean American Evangelicals on Campus
Rebecca Y. Kim
NYU Press, 2006
193 pp., $50.00
Korean American Evangelicals New Models for Civic Life
Elaine Howard Ecklund
Oxford University Press, 2008
224 pp., $40.95
Eight years ago, when I first arrived in the United States to go to college, student life staff put me through a two-day crash course in assimilation. Though I grew up just an hour over the Canadian border, pamphlets about food etiquette and punctuality were shoved into my unwilling hands. One inventoried commondinner utensils, and another warned me that "when people say 'I'll see you later!' they don't necessary want to see you later." for two awkward days, my Canadian nationality involuntarily became my primary identity marker. Once the American students arrived, other than a casual "eh" joke, I faded into the backdrop.
As scholars of immigrant religion point out, ethnicity is often harder to shake as an identity marker, constituting proof of perpetual "foreignness" that keeps Americans from feeling fully American. This is not a new problem, but in the last few decades it has become anespecially Christian problem.
Since the Immigration Act of 1965, the nation's racial, ethnic, and religious diversity has increased dramatically. The numbers are staggering. In 2000, foreign-born Americans and their children numbered 56 million, around one-fifth of the entire population. Racial questions nolonger can be simply bifurcated into black and white. As many newcomers are either Christian or become Christian after immigration, religious bodies often become the primary places of assimilation and ethnic formation.
Three recent books join the growing body of scholarship that examines how foreign-born and second-generation Korean Americans, particularly Protestants, address ethnicity in their worshipping communities. Using primarily historical and sociological lenses, they examine the religious identities of Korean Americans, one of the fastest growing immigrant groups. The first, Religion and Spirituality in Korean America, offers a wide-angle view of the variegated spiritual landscape. The second, God's New Whiz Kids?, maps the evangelical terrain of the college campus, while the ...