So remember when I made that really ranty and angry ass post about E&P. No? Here let me link you because I’m still salty as shit about it and will forever be salty because that piece of garbage is so fucking popular and it won a damn award.
So remember when I made that really ranty and angry ass post about E&P? Well now I’m about to make a really excited, really lovely post about Henry Cheng (obvs). I have a newfound respect for Maggie Stiefvater because this? Henry Cheng? THIS is how you write a good Korean character without it sounding grossly stereotyped and racist. I CANNOT tell you how fucking excited I was over the fact that Henry Cheng was Korean, but in such a casual and respectful way. I wasn’t reminded every other fucking minute that he was Asian or Korean. I wasn’t thrown disgusting stereotypes and descriptions. I just got Henry.
How did I know he was Korean? Because during Blue Lily, Lily Blue he says,
It’s supposed to be hanging with chicks during the day, boys at night. That’s what my halmeoni used to say, anyway.
Halmeoni is the Korean word for ‘grandmother’ and when he said that I was literally jumping up in happiness. It’s so thrown in their casually and not in a “ooh totally exotic” way. It’s just the way he speaks. It’s what he knows. It took me by surprise and I can’t put into words just how joyous I was with this discovery.
There’s even a whole part about how he doesn’t feel like himself when he’s speaking English because it’s his second language. He’s more comfortable in Korean. This is something I relate to because there are certain times where I say things in Korean rather than English because it just feels right.
There are so many moments where little bits of Korean culture is introduced so casually but also in an informative and respectful way.
Like in The Raven King:
Henry flipped crazy devil horns at him. “Jeong, bro.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Who knows,” Henry said. “It means being Henry. It means being Richardman. Jeong. You never say the word, but you live it anyway. I will be honest, I did not expect to find it in a guy such as yourself. It’s like we’ve met each other before. No, not really. We are friends at once, we would instantly do what friends would do for each other. Not just pals. Friends. Blood brothers. You just feel it. We instead of you and me. That’s jeong.“
Tonight at dinner I asked my mom what jeong meant. My Korean is terrible, but I was really excited and elated about Henry that I had to ask her the question and she said,
“Mm. Not really. It’s really hard to explain in English. Korean families? They have jeong.”
“So like… You’d do anything for your family.”
“Kind of, but more. It’s very hard to describe in English. There’s not a good meaning for it.”
Even when Henry’s mother, Seondeok (which… is also the Queen from the Silla period, you should look her up) was even written in a very Korean way. I’m honestly a little impressed and flattered at how well she’s written and how well she portrayed a Korean woman. Just the way she spoke and acted was incredibly close to how I’ve seen Korean women be.
I really want to know how Stiefvater went about with Henry and Seondeok because this is a woman who really cared about these characters and didn’t want to just throw them in for the sake of diversity. There’s obvious work that went into it and it shows. I wish Henry had a larger part in the story for the sake of having more of his presence in the books because I need more readers to understand that this is how you write a Korean (or really any PoC or East Asian) without making them some kind of show monkey. This is how you respectfully add PoC into your stories.
There were a lot of things I found in The Raven King to not meet my expectations, but Henry Cheng was definitely not one of them.
Thank you Maggie Stiefvater.