Quiet Odyssey

A Pioneer Korean Woman in America

Mary Paik Lee
Introduction by Sucheng Chan

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  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 1990
  • Subject Listing: Asian American Studies; History / Western History
  • Bibliographic information: 264 pp.
  • Series: Samuel and Althea Stroum Books
  • Contents

Mary Paik Lee, born Paik Kuang Sun in 1900, left her native country in 1905, traveling with her parents as a political refugee after Japan imposed control over Korea at the close of the Russo-Japanese War. Her father labored in the sugar plantations of Hawaii for a year and a half before taking his family to California, where Mrs. Lee has lived ever since. Though her father knew the comforts enjoyed by the educated traditional elite in Korea, after emigration he and his family shared the poverty stricken existence endured by thousands of Asian immigrants in early twentieth century America. Mrs. Lee's parents earned their living as farm laborers, tenant farmers, cooks, and janitors, and the family always took in laundry. Her father tried mercury mining until his health gave out. In their turn, Mrs. Lee and her husband farmed, sold produce, and managed apartment buildings.

The author is engagingly outspoken and is extremely observant of her social and natural surroundings. Recounted incidents take on memorable life, as do the sharply etched settings of California's agricultural and mining country. She tells of singular hardship surmounted with resilience and characteristic grace. During much of her life Asian Americans were not treated as full human beings, yet she kept a powerful vision of what the United States could be.

1. Origins
2. Oahu and Riverside
3. Claremont and Colusa
4. Roberts Island
5. Idria
6. Hollister
7. Willos
8. Marriage
9. Growing Rice
10. Selling Produce
11. Farming Again
12. World War II
13. Discrimination
14. Sons
15. Old Age
16. Reflections

Appendix A The Historiographer's Role
Appendix B Operating a Korean American Family Farm
Appendix C Korean Rice Growers in the Sacramento Valley

Bibliographic Essay


Korea: At the Beginning of the Twentieth Century

The Paik family, Korea 1905
Passport issued to Paik Sin Koo, 1905
Church on (Ewa?) plantation
Paik Sin Koo, Hawaii, 1905
First grade class, Washington Irving School, Riverside, 1907
The Paik family, Idria, 1915
Transcript for Kuang Paik, San Benito High School, Hollister 1916-17
Paik relatives left behind in Korea, ca. 1917
Hung Man Lee at age twenty-two, Mexico City, 1914
Flooded rice fields, Willows, 1919
Henry Lee and his parents, Anaheim, 1926
The Paik and Lee families, Tremonton, Utah, 1926
Blackboard with Korean alphabet, Tremonton, Utah, 1926
Charlotte Paik with stone mill, Utah, 1926
Henry and Allan Lee and their mother, Anaheim, 1929
Henry Lee and his parents, El Modeno, 1934
Kindergarten class, Norwalk, 1934
Lee family's produce stand, Whittier, 1940
Lee family's apartment building, Los Angeles, 1950
Tony Lee and his parents, Los Angeles, 1950
Mr. and Mrs. H.M. Lee, Los Angeles, 1960
With Henry Lee's Family, Los Angeles, 1969
Fiftieth wedding anniversary, Los Angeles, 1969
Paik siblings, Los Angeles, 1969
H.M. Lee with his half-brother and nephew, Seoul, Korea, 1972
Mrs. Lee with two sons and two granddaughters, Santa Cruz, 1987
Mr. and Mrs. Paik Sin Koo, Tremonton, Utah, 1926
Mary Kuang Sun Paik Lee, San Francisco, 1987