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What We Hunger For

What We Hunger For

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Refugee and Immigrant Stories about Food and Family

Editor Sun Yung Shin 신 선 영

Minnesota Historical Society Press (May 4, 2021)

Eating is an intimacy bound with language, family, and migration: travel far and near with these gifted writers as they share their flavorful, luminous stories.


Food can be a unifier and a healer, bringing people together across generations and cultures. Sharing a meal often leads to sharing stories and deepening our understanding of each other and our respective histories and practices, global and local. Newcomers to Minnesota bring their own culinary traditions and may re-create food memories at home, introduce new friends and neighbors to their favorite dishes, and explore comforting flavors and experiences of hospitality at local restaurants, community gatherings, and spiritual ceremonies. They adapt to different growing seasons and regional selections available at corner stores and farmers markets. And generations may communicate through the language of food in addition to a mix of spoken languages old and new. All of these experiences yield stories worth sharing around Minnesota cook fires, circles, and tables.

In What We Hunger For, fourteen writers from refugee and immigrant families write about their complicated, poignant, funny, difficult, joyful, and ongoing relationships to food, cooking, and eating.

Contributors: Valérie Déus, V. V. Ganeshananthan, Roy G. Guzmán, Lina Jamoul, Simi Kang, May Lee-Yang, Ifrah Mansour, Ánh-Hoa Thị Nguyễn, Zarlasht Niaz, Junauda Petrus-Nasah, Kou B. Thao, Michael Torres, Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, and Senah Yeboah-Sampong.

Author information

Sun Yung Shin 신 선 영 was born in Seoul, Korea and grew up in the Chicago area, where she learned to cook and bake from her mother. As one of almost 200,000 Korean adoptees worldwide since the 1950s, she was raised multiculturally in a Roman Catholic European American family, eating some of the foods from her homeland as well as from her adoptive family’s traditions from Poland, Ireland, and Germany—as well as from mid- and late-century Midwestern Americana. She has returned to Korea five times, and continues to explore her and others’ culinary heritage, practices, and evolutions with joy and deep appreciation.

She is also the editor of the best-selling anthology A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota and author of poetry collections Unbearable Splendor (finalist for the 2017 PEN USA Literary Award for Poetry, winner of the 2016 Minnesota Book Award for poetry); Rough, and Savage; and Skirt Full of Black (winner of the 2007 Asian American Literary Award for poetry), co-editor of Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, and author of the bilingual illustrated book for children Cooper’s Lesson. She lives in Minneapolis where she co-directs the community organization Poetry Asylum with poet Su Hwang.

Reviews and news

What We Hunger For is a gathering of voices from some of America’s most exciting writers on food. Here is an exploration of our relationships to culture, place, and belonging through recipes, memories, and experiences of home. This is an anthology of how we care for ourselves and each other among those who see us as different, foreign, un-American. This book is for everyone who eats.”
Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father, and Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir

Read Brave Saint Paul 2022 Title
Apogee Journal interview with Sun Yung Shin
MPR with Angela Davis


  • 224 pages
  • Paperback
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Includes 8 recipes
  • ISBN: 9781681341972

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