Caring Across Generations

Caring Across Generations: The Linked Lives of Korean American Families

Grace J. Yoo
Barbara W. Kim
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Caring Across Generations
    Book Description:

    More than 1.3 million Korean Americans live in the United States, the majority of them foreign-born immigrants and their children, the so-called 1.5 and second generations. While many sons and daughters of Korean immigrants outwardly conform to the stereotyped image of the upwardly mobile, highly educated super-achiever, the realities and challenges that the children of Korean immigrants face in their adult lives as their immigrant parents grow older and confront health issues that are far more complex. InCaring Across Generations, Grace J. Yoo and Barbara W. Kim explore how earlier experiences helping immigrant parents navigate American society have prepared Korean American children for negotiating and redefining the traditional gender norms, close familial relationships, and cultural practices that their parents expect them to adhere to as they reach adulthood. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 137 second and 1.5 generation Korean Americans, Yoo and Kim explore issues such as their childhood experiences, their interpreted cultural traditions and values in regards to care and respect for the elderly, their attitudes and values regarding care for aging parents, their observations of parents facing retirement and life changes, and their experiences with providing care when parents face illness or the prospects of dying. A unique study at the intersection of immigration and aging,Caring Across Generationsprovides a new look at the linked lives of immigrants and their families, and the struggles and triumphs that they face over many generations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7198-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Caring across a Lifetime
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1979, Joel’s parents decided to emigrate from South Korea to the United States. They were seeking better opportunities for their sons, Joel, thirteen at the time, and his younger brother, who was eleven, and they settled in Los Angeles near other Korean immigrants. Both parents were college-educated. Joel’s father had worked in Korea as a mid-level manager, and his mother had been a homemaker. After immigration, however, the family’s life changed dramatically. His father faced downward mobility and his mother needed to find work to help support the family. While she found a job as a seamstress at a...

  5. 1 Brokering Dreams
    (pp. 13-39)

    Lauren emigrated with her family from Korea when she was five years old. Her parents ran a number of small businesses until they retired in the early 2000s. Today, Lauren remembers the pressure to “do it all” in her childhood. In addition to taking art and music lessons, studying for good grades, and helping out in her parents’ business, Lauren assumed the role of the primary translator/interpreter in the family as a child. As a teenager, she took a part-time job to earn personal spending money, but her parents needed her paychecks to cover household bills. She filled out college...

  6. 2 Giving Back
    (pp. 40-69)

    Patrick, who is in his late twenties, sums up what many other respondents have suggested: they want to “give back” to their parents for all their sacrifices. In many ways, Patrick’s family’s immigration experience sounds like a familiar narrative. His parents owned a store and worked long hours until his mother developed serious health problems that required around the clock care when Patrick was in college. He discussed the overwhelming sense of responsibility he felt as the eldest son to help his father with the business and to provide care-giving for his mother. While experiencing the pull of family pressures...

  7. 3 Caring about Culture
    (pp. 70-100)

    One significant practice of continuity and remembrance in Lauren’s family is visiting her grandparents’ graves on anniversaries and Korean holidays; her father worries that Lauren’s generation (and beyond) will not only neglect their grandparents but himself and his wife after they pass. Lauren’s father’s sentiments echo concerns shared among many immigrants that their children born and/or raised in the United States will forget the practice of remembering past generations. For many respondents, immigration creates separation not only from extended kin and ethnic communities, but also sometimes from cultural traditions and practices. Even though the immigrant generation may worry that such...

  8. 4 Gender at Work
    (pp. 101-134)

    Albert, a married father of young children, is very appreciative of his wife, Bonnie, who runs their household and takes care of both her and his parents. Without her labor and attention to their extended families, he would not be able to devote the amount of time he does to his work. Albert attributes her willingness to take on this role to her innate “caretaker-type of personality,” suggesting she is “naturally better” at such tasks as staying in regular contact with both sets of parents, while acknowledging that she would prefer that he share in the care-work responsibilities for their...

  9. 5 In the Midst of Caring for Ill Parents
    (pp. 135-164)

    By the time Michelle’s uninsured father finally decided to seek medical help, his liver cancer was in its advanced stage. Her mother quit her job to become his full-time care-giver, and suddenly, her parents, who had owned a string of small businesses over the years and had two children in college, had no savings and no income. Devastatingly, Michelle’s father passed away just one month after diagnosis. For the next few years, the sisters coordinated with each other to ensure that their mother would not be alone. Michelle turned down an out-of-state job offer to live with her mother while...

  10. 6 Linked Lives: Where Do We Go from Here?
    (pp. 165-180)

    This book focuses on narratives of adult children of Korean immigrants and the roles they play in relationship to their aging parents, particularly in regards to the support they have provided in the face of structural constraints and both Korean and American cultural norms. The narratives of adult children of immigrants do not negate or minimize the lifelong work of their parents who came to a new country, raised their families, and navigated economic, political, and structural systems.¹ Many parents, if they were able, provided their children with emergency short-term or long-term support, such as financial assistance or childcare. And...

    (pp. 181-182)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 183-194)
    (pp. 195-210)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 211-214)
    (pp. 215-215)