Turning to extant theories of melancholy, this article uses Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée to reevaluate the linear trajectory of Asian American identity formation in the United States. In particular, the author develops the term mel-han-choly—a hybrid form of melancholy and Korean han (a culturally specific grief)—to show how Cha uses it as a subversive political tool to defer historical closure and to refuse her quiet assimilation. Cha’s remembrance of the histories of Japanese colonialism in the Korean peninsula and the Korean War defies the expectation that minority populations somehow transcend their grievous pasts in becoming model American citizens. The author claims that Cha’s mel-han-cholic gestures disrupt the United States’ discursive power in narrating Korean history, especially as one contingent on accepting America’s “liberating” charge. This article also proposes that mel-han-choly serves a healing function within the diasporic Korean community, offering transnational connectivity through the shared experience of grief.

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