Quiet Odyssey, Mary Paik Lee

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One Response to “Quiet Odyssey, Mary Paik Lee”

  1. Mira H. Says:

    For my history book, I decided to read Quiet Odyssey by Mary Paik Lee. This book follows the story of a Korean girl who lives with her family at first in Korea, then Hawaii, then California. The book starts off in Korea, where the author talks about sitting on her front steps and seeing two Japanese officers approach her house. The Japanese officers were there to tell her family that they had to move out immediately, so that they could use Mary’s home to house their soldiers. The family decided to go to Inchon, the nearest large city with a harbor. In the harbor there were owners of plantations from Hawaii, who were looking for workers in exchange for a free passage to Hawaii. The father of Mary Paik Lee agreed to this, and so the family moved to Hawaii, arriving on May 8th, 1905. Life in Hawaii was not that much different for her, because there were so many Orientals. They only lived in Hawaii for a little while before the father heard from friends in Riverside, California that the wages were better there and there was more work available. They arrived in San Francisco, California on December 3nd, 1906. From the middle to the end of Quiet Odyssey by Mary Paik Lee, many tragedies occur. Some were predictable as they involved big historical moments in the U.S, while others were more personal to Mary such as family members dying. On January 1st, 1919 Mary married a man named Hung Man Lee, and later moved into a small house together. Together they owned a fruit business selling fresh produce. They had to endure much discrimination in Anaheim, which they moved to several years after being married. The discrimination was due to the population in Anaheim being mostly German Americans, who didn’t think much of Asian Americans. Mary’s second son, Allan Paik Lee was born in Anaheim on January 16th, 1929. During that time World War 2 broke out. When the Pearl Harbor tragedy struck, many Japanese American residents were forced to leave their homes. Mary and her family then moved to Stanford. Her husband Hung suffered with an aneurysm of the aorta. He slipped in and out of consciousness. On June 19, 1975 at eighty-three years of age Hung passed away. On September 11, 1976, Allan, her middle child came to her door in San Francisco. Allan told her that her oldest son Henry was traveling with his co-workers from the bank he worked at. While traveling, his plane crashed into a mountainside during a storm. Henry and eleven other men died in that crash. Mary suffered many loses in her old age including her husband, son, brothers, and mother.

    I think this book was really representative of how much discrimination there was for Asian-Americans in the 1900s. It was hard for Mary and her family to get by when they first came to America, so they moved multiple times, Mary’s parents trying to find stable jobs that could could support the family. Especially during the Pearl Harbor incident the discrimination was very high and made it difficult for Mary. I also think this book was very interesting because of the perspective Mary had on it all. She never voiced any anger or sadness against the discrimination and sometimes the violence placed against her as a Korean. Overall, this book was very informative and I would definitely recommend it.

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