Raise Your Voice: An Interview with Kathy Khang

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I’ve been stalking Kathy Khang’s twitter for years and have always viewed her as a confident and powerful voice as she dismantles the status quo. It’s so easy to only see one tiny dimension of a person when we confine them to just one social media outlet, isn’t it? Reading Kathy’s journey of finding her voice and confidence in her new book, Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up was such a reminder to me that we are all on a journey and that often, our confidence comes from extreme experiences.

Kathy has graciously answered some of my questions and I hope this interview gives you a deeper insight into her journey. Raise Your Voice was one of my favorite books of the summer and I hope you’ll read it soon!

Annie: Welcome to the Red Couch! Tell us a little about yourself and your new book, Raise Your Voice.

Kathy: I’m a writer, speaker, and yoga teacher learning to love myself and my neighbors, especially as I try to embrace mid-life in this, um, interesting time in history. I’ve been in vocational ministry for more than 20 years, married for 25, and the mother of three children, ages 22, 19 and 16. My book just launched July 31, and I like to think it was titled perfectly. It takes a look at why we, and a few friends in scripture, stay silent and what should compel us to speak up through word and deed.

Learning to raise your voice has been quite the journey. (I am still shocked by your story of someone physically placing their hand on your mouth to silence you!) What is the greatest joy you’ve experienced since you’ve stepped into the role of activist?

Every reader has commented on the story of my being physically silenced! I honestly didn’t think about it as being terribly shocking, which should say more about what I’ve experienced than that one incident. Anyway, the greatest joy has been to see change – big and not so big – happen over the long haul. I’ve engaged in endless “dialogues” and “conversations” with decision-makers and power brokers over the years and sometimes change is immediate, like an offensive book being pulled out of production (yes, that happened), and sometimes it happens over years, like an apology for offensive VBS materials finally being made after almost a decade after the original protests. I’ve also had the privilege to walk with people through their journey of identifying and dismantling bias and racism, which is not for the faint-hearted.

I love how you wove in stories of parenting into your journey of using your own voice. As a mom of both sons and a daughter, how do you and your husband find yourselves teaching them differently about their voice in today’s culture? What is the biggest parenting takeaway you hope they keep as they transition into adulthood?

Let me start off with this: parents always face new challenges but even in the past 22 years the rise of social media and parental use of electronic devices CRAZY difficult to manage! I can’t imagine what it must be like now to parent in a hyper-digital age. I am grateful I did not face IG, Snapchat, and Minecraft when my children were younger. I didn’t get my first cell phone until after I had my first baby, and I didn’t have a smartphone until my oldest had started school. I didn’t have to fight the urge to stick a screen literally in the hands of my toddler because that wasn’t a thing.

But even without all that noise, we were/are raising our daughter and sons in a world that doesn’t always recognize, honor, or celebrate them as Asian American, and specifically Korean American, young adults who are rarely represented as “normal” in culture. We’ve tried to teach them about voice as it pertains to the individual (Western values) and to the community (Eastern values) and to be fluid and fluent in those cultural influences. We’ve also tried to smash the patriarchy and its negative impact on men and women by example and humble failures in our own lives. Mom can and often does use the snowblower and dad does all the ironing. We also have made it a point to encourage our daughter and sons to express and name emotions and to address the different ways in which culture not only gendered certain behaviors in a negative way (“hit like a girl” and “man up”) but also use language to encourage someone up at the expense of another.

The biggest parenting takeaway we hope our children are taking them into adulthood is to remember God’s people take risks. It’s funny but makes sense that my parents, immigrants to this country, wanted me and my sister to go the way of “safe” careers, which is why vocational ministry and writer were not on their radars. They took the risks so that we didn’t have to, but as my children will also have to wrestle with how faith looks, feels and is lived out in adulthood I want them to remember the stories in scripture more often than not were invitations to trust and faith in and to risk with a big, generous, loving God.

You offer incredible amounts of grace to your reader without letting anyone off the hook. Each chapter is grounded in practicality, which I greatly appreciated. Is there any advice you wish you could have added to these pages? What would you say to someone who is just starting to find her voice?

I wish I could’ve thought of a creative way to show that this is a lifelong practice. We don’t get this perfect and that is not the goal, which I am being reminded and reassured when readers of all ages, men and women, are telling me they are still learning and making mistakes. It’s a practice to find your voice.

Dear Someone Just StartingTo Find Your Voice,
There is no one size fits all in this. You may find yourself trying on other people’s voices—people you respect, your mentors, etc. Do it. Try them on and then figure out what didn’t fit, didn’t “sound” like you and then be with Jesus and the people who walk with you as you walk with Jesus. Be honest with one another. Be open and vulnerable with one another. Be curious about where God is in your lives, families, and communities. Listen and watch with and for one another to help identify moments when you are living into that unique voice of yours. You’ll make mistakes, but that is ok. It’s part of the practice.

What’s next for you as a writer? How can we best connect with you?

I’m hoping to send out a Christmas card and annual letter this year. I think we are now on an even-year cycle. I’m still cranking out columns at Sojourners magazine and hoping to get back to the occasional blog post at kathykhang.com, but in my wildest dreams, I’m hoping to get another book proposal written next year. My Dear Readers can find me on Insta and Twitter @mskathykhang and on Facebook.

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Thank you, Kathy for taking the time to answer our questions! Readers, have you read Raise Your Voice? How are you learning to raise your own voice?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon,any purchase you make supports this site. 
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Annie Rim
I live in Colorado where I play with my daughters, hike with my husband, and write about life & faith. I have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I am honored to lead the Red Couch Book Club here at SheLoves. You can connect with me on Twitter & Instagram @annie_rim or on my blog: annierim.com.
Annie Rim