Song of Ariran: In Memory of Helen Foster Snow
No other book I've read in the '70s has rivaled Song of Ariran in terms of impacting my politics, pluck, and profession. When I became a journalist in the 1980s, I wanted to meet [Helen Foster] Snow and thank her for co-writing the book [about Kim San, an unknown Korean patriot in pre-revolutionary China]. I also wanted her to know how it had inspired my life as a Korean American human rights advocate and writer. After first reading Song of Ariran, I no longer felt alienated from the Third World movements I publicly supported. Finally, a Korean nationalist personified the same passion, political ideals, and human desires as the other figures we studied and emulated. Kim San's story validated my own idealism in the scheme of contemporary politics.
Like many other Asian American radicals in the last '60s and '70s, [my husband Jan and I] were politically dizzied by the democratic movements of the Third World, particularly those in China, Vietnam, and Korea. We marched against the war in Vietnam. We published a Korean American human rights newsletter called Insight and organized the first street demonstrations for Korean reunification at the United Nations in 1972. I even sewed a South and North Korean flag that flapped in the wind on First Avenue -- the first public display of solidarity for one Korea.
"You're our Korean Betsy Ross," says Jan.