Illustration: Racial Melancholia. A work of art showing multiple Asian men overlaid on top of one another

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The Stories We Tell, and Don’t Tell, About Asian-American Lives

In the mid-nineties, David Eng was a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia, and Shinhee Han, a psychotherapist, worked for the school’s counselling and psychological services. After a seemingly popular Korean-American undergraduate at Columbia committed suicide, Eng and Han got to talking about what seemed, to them, like a wave of depression afflicting the school’s Asian-American students, and about how unsettling they found it that so few of their colleagues had attended the student’s funeral. There were many Asian-American students at Columbia, but Eng and Han had noticed that these students often spoke, in the classroom and at the clinic, of feeling invisible, as if their inner lives were of little concern to those outside their immediate community. 

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