Reading Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology by Mihee Kim-Kort A Decade Later

Post Author: Joy Knoppel

Earlier this year was the tenth anniversary of the publication of one of our own books under the Young Clergywomen International book line with Chalice Press. We reviewed the book when it was first released and wanted to see how the book speaks now, a decade later.

As I was reading Making Paper Cranes by Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, I found myself feeling simultaneously exposed and held by her analysis and critique of the “both and” world that Asian-American women live in. I regret that until this past month I have never read or been given a recommendation on a book solely based on Asian-American feminist theology. Frankly, I did not know that such a book existed and am both overwhelmed and thankful to have received this blessing.

During the first half of her book I was nodding in absolute agreement as she named the Perpetual Foreigner Syndrome, viewing Asian-Americans as outsiders no matter where they are from. She shared her experiences of people commenting on her English, tied with the feelings and burden of never being American enough. I strongly agreed with her observations of the unfair expectations of the model minority myth, such as the hypersexualization of Asian women or the belief that cultural assimilation is necessary for survival. Despite the fact that Rev. Kim-Kort and myself come from different backgrounds, as I was adopted as an infant and raised in the States,  I felt similar memories of my own childhood resurfacing in her stories.  

In the second half of her book Rev. Kim-Kort begins by building on the work done by Gale Yee when looking at the book of Ruth. Rev. Kim-Kort argues for inclusion: if we as a church want to move forward in our understanding of the Divine and all of the ways the Divine interacts in our lives, we must bravely parse out the role that external and internal relationships play when shaping new identities. Rev. Kim-Kort then moves to an intriguing interpretation of the Holy Spirit and how it influences the way we shape our identities in our greater communities. Instead of depending on the normal canonical texts and application of them in our lives, an Asian-American feminist theology strives to focus on introspection and narrative when defining the Divine. Drawing from the wisdom of other Asian-American theologians, Rev. Kim-Kort then analyzes the change that happens when the Holy Spirit becomes the well from which we draw from when understanding ourselves and who God has made us to be. 

The Holy Spirit emboldens us to show compassion, empathy, and a willingness to live out an embodied faith that is unique to each one of us yet connected solely by the Holy Spirit. For example, I knowingly serve and am a part of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) a church body that is predominantly white-bodied. I choose to serve in that denomination because I believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in their overall mission and values. Yes, there have been various amounts of systematic hoops that I have had to jump through (and still do), but my faith grounds me in the belief that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide me in connecting who I am and who I have been called to be in this church body. 

Rev. Joy Knoppel, a young Asian American woman, holds a copy of the book, Making Paper Cranes

Read this book!

As I navigated the complexity of her final chapters on fragmentation and liberation theology, I was deeply satisfied by her definition of an Asian-American feminist theology as the encouragement of choice. Making Paper Cranes is a reminder that when  Asian-American women speak up and share our deeply lived and embodied stories we help reshape the narratives that have historically harmed and taken away our personhood. We can choose to be silent or choose to be an active warrior for change.  

In writing this book Rev. Kim-Kort has spoken up and given a voice to Asian-American women and I am more than proud to join alongside her in the continuous work of reimagining all of the things God is calling us to be. 

Rev. Joy Knoppel received her M.Div from The University of Chicago and currently serves as Pastor at an ELCA church in MN. She loves reading, being outdoors, and spoiling her dog (insta:bernedoodle_boba). 

Image by: Joy Knoppel
Used with permission
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