Yell-Oh Girls!: Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian American

Yell-Oh Girls!: Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian American

by Vickie Nam

Paperback(1 ED)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060959449
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/31/2001
Edition description: 1 ED
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,314,744
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Lexile: 1080L (what's this?)
Age Range: 13 Years

About the Author

Vickie Nam was most recently content/community producer at VOXXY, the L.A. — based interactive network for girls. She was formerly managing producer at, news team coordinator at Teen People, and editor in chief of Blue Jean Magazine. Her work has appeared in Seventeen, Jump, and KoreAM Journal. Vickie lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Orientation: Finding the Way Home

The day after my high school graduation, I boarded a plane. Next stop, Korea. My parents waved good-bye with nervous yet hopeful smiles, and my mom yelled,"Behave yourself!" like she always did when I was flying somewhere to visit family friends or relatives.

My parents had enrolled me in a cultural immersion summer program -- a "discover your roots" pilgrimage, of sorts -- at Yonsei University in Seoul. For five weeks I lived in a dormitory with hundreds of other second-generation Korean American girls and guys in their late teens.

Week one of the program flew by, and not without knocking my self-confidence down a few notches. My language skills were poor, and I was having a difficult time adapting to the climate. I didn't know where to begin when I called my mother to tell her about my first days, but there was something I'd been dying to ask her ever since stepping off the plane at Kimpo International Airport. At the time I tried squeezing an explanation out of my grandmother, but she didn't seem to understand my question.

"Mom, what does 'gyo-po' mean?" Had I said hello to her yet? I couldn't remember.

"Gyo-po" is what the natives -- taxi drivers, waiters, saleswomen, and the like -- were calling me everywhere I went. I could tell that it was a noun, and I also noticed that people sometimes uttered the word quickly and impatiently in passing. But beyond these observations, I knew nothing.

My mother cleared her throat. "It means foreigner."

She asked me where I'dheard the expression. I told her, everywhere, and that gyo-po had become my nickname here in Seoul.

So that I didn't have to linger by the phone booth for too long, I got into the habit of writing down all of the things I needed to tell my parents in advance of calling them. It was boiling, inside and outside; the thick, soupy air felt hotter than my own breath. In a letter to my friend in the States, I told her that here you didn't move from one place to the next, you swam. Although I was ashamed to admit it, central air-conditioning was definitely one of the things I missed most.

"Oh, it means foreigner?" I echoed. I didn't have much else to say to my mom that day. Nothing on my list seemed important anymore.

So for the next two months, I was a gyo-po, a foreigner. Viewing the city streets from above, stringy black dots bobbed up and down and darted from side to side. On ground level, I noticed that it didn't matter that I looked like everybody else; I was still singled out for being different. The pictures that were taken of me my first day in Seoul tell an interesting story. Now, all I can see is that my Western stance, my Kodak camera, and my Doc Martens were dead giveaways; I might as. well have draped myself in an American flag. The thing is, and all of the other American-born kids agreed with this conjecture, even if we weren't wearing Western clothes, the natives still would have pegged us Americans. We joked constantly about our unique gyo-po status; this erased the sting of rejection by the Korean community. To the locals, we smelled funny, we talked funny, and we just didn't belong.

A few days before the program ended, one of my girlfriends and I were coming back from a long day of shopping. We wanted to stock up on all necessary foodstuffs, souvenirs, and rip-off Gucci handbags before going back to the States. Exhausted, we hailed a cab. It was too late before we found out that we'd hailed one of the few taxicabs in the city that didn't have an air-conditioner. But this wasn't the worst part.

The driver, a fifty-something man, glared at us in the rearview mirror. He was angry. Shaking his finger in the air, he grumbled, "You kids are not Korean, and your parents are traitors for having left their homeland."

He drove in circles around the Yonsei University campus, and my friend and I wondered if he was ever going to stop lecturing, or stop driving. We were terrified. We could accept that the man thought we were unappreciative, ill-mannered, stupid Twinkie kids (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), but was he eventually going to stop the car and turn us loose? My girlfriend grabbed my arm and whispered through the side of her mouth, "Do you think he's going to kidnap us and sell us into slavery?" I assured her that the driver would drop us off as soon as he was done bitching. But when we reached a red traffic light, I yanked the car door open and threw a couple bills over the seat. We jetted.

The previous few weeks had been filled with similar experiences. My friends in the program and I were kicked out of night clubs because there were "already too many gyo-pos" inside, received poor service at restaurants, were snubbed by women at clothing stores and salons -- in some cases, the discrimination we faced in Korea had been far more intense than anything we'd confronted in America. Even though our friendships were growing stronger, many of us couldn't wait to get back home.

But when I finally arrived home in Rochester, I remember weaving through crowds of people who were milling about the baggage claim. It just didn't feel like it was my life I was returning to. After being homesick for the warmth and security, I was depressed that it felt like I was visiting another foreign country.

YELL-Oh Girls!. Copyright © by Vickie Nam. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Claire S. Chow

"A diversity of younger Asian-American writers carrying the banner forward. I think this is great.

Margaret Lee

"A book like YELL-Oh Girls! would have let me know that I wasn't alone.

Elaine Mar

"Valuable not only for its [sharp] an inspiration to any young person seeking self-expression.

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Yell-Oh Girls - Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing up Asian American 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very inspiring to young girls, like myself, who have grown up asian but not always in an asian community. It shares many different points of views to how different groups of asians have had to handle several situations. Many oriental girls have had to face many different types of challenges and many of them have been able to handle them very well. This book tells the stories of a plethra of girls showing how they stayed strong and were able to live through the difficult tasks that were brought to their lives. There were a number of messages and themes within the book but the major ones had to do with family problems, cultural discrepencies and girls having low self-esteem at some point. The girls all over came them very well and were brave enough to share them in this collection. There were many topics to like about this book, maybe more for asian girls like myself than just anyone. But the main thing I enjoyed was that I could really connect with some of the stories told. Some of the specific tales of these young girls were very touching and very inspirational for the lives of other girls. I liked when the story would be told with an uplifting ending and the girl would find herself, find self esteem, or solve a conflict that has been conflicting for a while. Dislikes for me from this book were hard to find, there wasn't much to not like about these stories. They were so thoughtful and I loved getting into their lives and finding out about them so then I too could end up like them. They gave me faith and hope to live on through my tough times. I think if you are looking to find inspiration or learn that you are not the only one going through identity crisis or family issues you should definitely read this. It helps to show that no matter who you are that you will have to go through similar challenges as someone else.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed crying, laughing and empathising with the authors and their stories. This book gives readers a sense of comfort and belonging for those who may be going through an identity crisis. Very helpful!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended to any asian american whether you are a teen or mother. this book made me think back to my experiences growing up. good to know that i wasn't alone. going to recommend this book to all of my childhood friends...good book for your kids too! on LibraryThing 6 months ago
Phoebe Eng's intro to the book still makes this anthology stick out in my mind."[B]ig things can never been accomplished by sheer will and talent alone. Instead, it requires the collusion of hundreds of people who also believe in you, who want you to thrive, and will do what is necessary to lift you up to that place where, finally, you will have what you need to fly on your own."YELL-Oh Girls! is an anthology of writings by and for younger Asian/Pacific American women (mostly youth/teens, with some young adults [early twenties]) -- which is not a bad thing by any means. When I came across the book, it was a refreshing breath of air, (re)affirming, in some ways, my own lived experience as a young Asian American.Those who come to this book a little further along in their journey of discovery and identity formation may not find it quite so engaging as those who are 'younger' may find it. However, it is still a great collection for those looking for a work that speaks to their experience*, and I'd highly recommend it to any young Asian American woman who has ever thought about her identity and what it means to be "Asian."*Though I really can't remember if transracial adoptees and Desis get a fair shake in this volume -- given the scope of the project, I'd think they would!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I rated YELL-Oh Girls! Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian American 5 stars because this book is a book that would make you think about how you view Asian Americans. This is a good book for anyone who likes a book made of short stories. This is a book of essays, letters, etc. written by young Asian American girls, it is about them expressing how being an Asian American have made a big impact in their lives. Being an Asian American myself, this book have helped me realize that I am not the only one who thinks that both America and Asia have made me feel as if I am a foreigner. Also even if you are not an Asian American yourself, by reading this book you would be able to realize that little racist comments that are said to an Asian American may not seem as big as a deal to you. But, to them, it would be like telling them that they should not be Asian but be an American. This book had a big impact on me and I recommend this book to all ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first saw this book all I could think about is how it would have nothing to do with me and my life and it would not interest me at all. But once I got into the book it was actually a pretty good book. The book is very inspiring to young girls, not just to the Asian women but also to women who are not Asian. The women in this book are very open with their experiences and sharing how hard it is growing up in America as Asian American women. They tell a story that not only involves just the Asian American women but the women as a whole in this country about what they have to go through and what they have accomplished just to be noticed. It talks about all the battles these women have to go through culturally and personally. I especially like the stories it told about the women who stood up to other people and showed that they are as much of person as any body else. As much as I enjoyed reading some of the stories, I felt that there were more stories that did not capture my attention. In my opinion this is not a book that I would read again, just for the fact that most of the stories lost my attention and did not make muh sense to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
when i first started reading this book, it was kind of boreing and i didn't think i would like it. What drew me to it was reading the reveiw on the back of the back of the book. Eventually after I got through the first ten pages, I found the book really interesting. Also really informative.I never knew what these young girls had to go through. Being called a foreigner everywhere you go, and being stuck between two countriesand not knowing which to choose. It must be really hard! Overall i really enjoyed this book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a male with a Korean mother and a White father. Even though the stories in this book are from women and girls, it seemed as though I was reading my own story in so much of the book. If you want the real story of what it means to grow up Asian-American then you should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thanks to Vickie Nam and all the contributers of this ground breaking book. It makes me realize that as an Asian American girl, I am not alone, and our collective life experiences are worthy enough to be in print. The emotion thoughout the book is touching and intense; from the introduction by the editor, to the introductions of each piece, and finally the the stories and poems themselves reach out and touch parts of my soul. If you know of any Asian American girl (or even boy) buy this book for them to read, even parents too.