I've only written two pieces having anything to do with being Korean. The second piece was the New York Magazine cover story titled PAPER TIGERS.
The first piece, which was titled THE FACE OF SEUNG-HUI CHO, appeared in a small journal called n+1. n+1 asked me, as it does of all its writers, to write as fearlessly and ferociously as I could on a subject that felt urgent to me. It touched on Asian-American identity only obliquely.
I was reluctant to write this piece, and then to publish it, for reasons that should be plain to all who read it. But for anyone who was puzzled by the strange and combustible hybrid of reportage, criticism, and memoir that was PAPER TIGERS, THE FACE OF SEUNG-HUI CHO may provide some insight into who I used to be and how I came to be the unusual writer and person that I have since become.
Matthew Yglesias called it "by far the best thing I've read in a long while" back in 2008.
Jenny Schuessler, an editor at the New York Times Book Review, bloggedabout it NYT's ArtsBeat blog.
Amazon's staff reviewer described the 10,000 word essay thusly:
Wesley Yang has an acrobatic way with a turn of phrase. Whether he's describing "lips with the puckered epicene aspect that speaking the French language too young will impart to a decent American mouth," or "sycophants, careerists, and media parasites… redefining mediocrity for the 21st century," he employs this penchant for vivid, snapping description liberally. ("Liberals! They'll hand over the ammunition that their enemies will use to kill them.") Here Yang puts his considerable talents to work in a wandering essay that purports to recall the sad story of school-shooter Seung-Hui Cho, but is in fact about much more. Throughout, Yang unleashes short, summary judgments so eloquent that it hardly matters whether you agree with him. Touching on indie rock, identity politics, or the artistic ossification of Nikki Giovanni, Yang's laser-guided cultural lens focuses the reader's attention equally on his own coming of age, his ostensible subject, and ourselves. --Jason Kirk"
The essay, which has for years existed only in print issues of n+1, was selected for inclusion in the anthology BEST CREATIVE NONFICTION of 2008.
It is now available as a Kindle Single at Amazon.Com for $1.99.