Hibbing native pens Thanksgiving immigrant tale in NY Times

A street scene from Hibbing, Minnesota, in 1956, when Lee's father first worked as an anesthetist at Hibbing General Hospital.

A 1956 street scene from Hibbing, Minnesota when Lee’s father first worked as an anesthetist at Hibbing General Hospital.

Marie Myung-Ok Lee, a Korean-American writer from Hibbing, had a Thanksgiving memoir of her family’s time in the Iron Range city published in the New York Times today.

Her story is touching and real. The town simultaneous fought to help her father, at one time the town’s only anesthetist, stay in the country, but she and her siblings also faced bullying and ethnic slurs. It’s the paradox that confronts anyone who’s different in a small town, an immigrant in a strange land. The story is as familiar today as it would have been 100 years ago, or longer.

From the Lee piece in the Times:

As kids, dressed up and trying not to squirm at the table, it didn’t occur to us that we had the entire weight of Korean history behind us. Because our parents never spoke about Korea, we felt as if we’d landed in the middle of the Iron Range of Minnesota via spaceship. How were we to know that my father, who bought the 12-pound turkey, had almost starved to death during the early part of the war? That while we voiced our complaints that we were bored, my parents, under the Japanese occupation, had not been allowed to speak their own language or even use their own names?

It is only in hindsight that I realize that this succession of Thanksgivings, never missed, never altered, was a gift. It was the ultimate gift my parents could have given their children, of optimism and safety, the feeling that the next Thanksgiving would be a lot like this one, a predictable celebration of abundance and family.

Why wouldn’t you read the whole thing? You should.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. This blogger will rest for a few days. But I’ll be back in due time.


  1. I remember Doc Lee. He was the working on my mom when she had surgery at the old Hibbing hospital off 3rd ave. I’m sorry his children had to go thru hazing for being Korean. Most of us went thru hazing for our looks or lack of them, dress and a myriad of other reasons but not for our heritage. Tough skin was a must back in the 60’s.

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