A Novel Excerptby Don Lee
He sidled into the room late and took a seat next to me near the back. It was hot outside, a dewy August in St. Paul, Minnesota, 1988, but he was wearing a raggedy gray car coat and Doc Martens. He had a stringy goatee and lank hair that flopped over his eyes, and he reeked of cigarettes. He badly needed a shower. He was of average height and rather thin, but incongruously, especially for an eighteen-year-old, he sported a noticeable paunch.
He glanced at the name tag stuck to my shirt. “Eric Cho,” he read. “What do you know, another Korean.” He wasn’t wearing a name tag himself. An act of defiance, apparently. All the other kids wore name tags, as dictated, for Macalester College’s freshman orientation. “Joshua,” he told me, and I nodded.
He took a look around at the other students in the room—an introductory session for a first-year course called The Vietnam War: Apocalyptic Visions and Imperialist Hegemony. They were overwhelmingly Midwestern, upper-middle-class, white-bread. “What do you think, bro?” he said. “We were put in here to provide the Oriental perspective, weren’t we?”