I just finished reading Kissing Outside the Lines by Dianne Farr, an American actress who married a Korean American. They faced opposition to their marriage because she wasn’t Korean, so she turned to other interracial/international couples for advice and their stories of struggle and success.
I relate to this book in many ways. My boyfriend is Korean and a lot of the cultural differences Dianne and Seung experienced are familiar to me. However, as a Korean American, the couple didn’t have a language barrier (only with his family at times) and nor did they move abroad.
I think the thing that drew me most to this book is the unique topic and the fact that I, a girl from the South, know a lot about racism and how it can tear couples apart (mostly from family issues). I think my experience living in a homogeneous society such as Japan has made me hyper-aware of racism in America. Many people in the States like to say that racism doesn’t exist or that talking about it only makes it worse, which is completely false.
The thing I like most in the book is the stories of other couples’ and the opposition they faced. Dianne isn’t the best writer, and often, her personal stories were hard to read or distracting. She also romanized Korean words and family member’s names in such a horrible way that I cringed every time I came across one. I understand that she wanted the Korean words to be somewhat easy to read for her audience, but she even spelled the city Busan incorrectly (as Buson). Since she visited Busan, I would expect her to at least seen a street sign and known how to spell it’s name, or she could have easily gone on Wikipedia and checked. I wonder how it got through the editors as well.
She also spelled Omma (mom) as Ama and Eonni as Un-Nee, and the first time she explained the pronunciation of her husband Seung’s name, she related it to ‘sing’ and I laughed. Later, she admitted that the pronunciation of his name was a childhood nickname, and when she accidentally called him ‘sing’ in front of his Korean relatives, they were horrified.
Once I pushed past the awkward sentences and random spouts of babbling on, I actually found the book interesting. Dianne was a once ignorant, some would say ‘normal’ (if you get over the actress part) girl, and yet she met Seung and her world changed. She saw first hand how people are still not allowed to love whomever they please if their families don’t like their race, and she interviewed many couples who went years without speaking to their parents as a result of going through with marrying someone who they didn’t approve of.
At the end, she calls on Americans who still hold prejudice against other races as unpatriotic, since America has always been a melting pot (more of a salad bowl really). As a young country, America still has a long way to go in terms of discrimination. Diversity is a beautiful thing, and we should respect our differences but understand that we have more in common than we think.
I enjoyed the book and it was a fast read and something that I would recommend to anyone who a) still believes that racism doesn’t exist and b) those who know it does and want a good story on how ignorant people came around.
Next I plan on reading Good Chinese Wife but I would love your suggestions on cultural stories, nonfiction or otherwise! Leave me a comment with a good book and I might review it as well.