Meet UCI Graduate Student Toni Hays

A UCI graduate student's reflections on Cathy Park Hong's "Minor Feelings"

Toni Hays is a Ph.D. candidate in the UCI Department of English. Her essay, "Speculative Hybriscapes: Thinking Race Through Continental Arrangements," was awarded the 2019 Circle of Asian American Literary Studies (CAALS) Essay Prize, an award that recognizes the best paper on Asian American literature/culture. At UCI, she also affiliates with departments of Asian American Studies and Gender & Sexuality Studies.

Information on the event, which happened on Feb 3rd, can be found here.

The pleasure of reading Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings is its ability to act as a mirror. While the specific experiences in the essay collection belong to Hong, the collection’s prose compel readers to recollect their own experiences and reframe them through Hong’s precise diction. Hong writes, “As a good student of modernism, I was tirelessly committed to the New and was confident that despite my identity, I would be recognized for my formal innovations.” These were my hopes too at the beginning of my graduate career. These are the hopes of nearly every student of literature. However, like Hong, reality struck me like lightning, as my colleagues noted my comments were “always about race” or “Brilliant!” insofar as they said something about the conditions of women of color. As we fight out of our 2020 growing pains, Hong’s Minor Feelings provides readers an apt platform to question the status quo of U.S. race relations and reimagine the future anew. That is to say that during the uncertain present, Hong’s Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning reinvigorates the not so minor feeling of hope for the future.