East Asian Mothers in Britain: An Intersectional Exploration of Motherhood and Employment by Hyun-Joo Lim

I’m delighted to say my book ‘East Asian Mothers in Britain’ has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan as part of its Family and Intimate Life Study series.

It was nine years ago when I began my research project on East Asian mothers living in Britain as a PhD student. As an East Asian migrant woman myself who was hoping to have a child one day, I wanted to explore how migrant women with children construct their identity and how they manage childcare and employment in a context where they are forging a ‘new’ life with limited social networks. As much research is often connected with personal stories of researchers in one way or another, for me it was a journey to learn about myself, where I come from and where I have chosen as my ‘home’ country.

The last eight/nine months were intense, anxiety-ridden and at times agonising. Carving out time to read, think and write was a real challenge. Also, the fear of being rejected overwhelmed me often and I spent many days and nights worrying about the outcome. Nonetheless, I loved the process and the deeply focused time that I immersed myself in something that I love. After going through this anxiety, getting accepted for publication was such a relief. Now holding fresh copies in my hands and giving a signed copy to my son seem surreal.

The publication of this book is significant for me personally. I feel writing it has helped me to overcome the psychological barriers that prevented me from enjoying writing for a long time. Since working on the book, writing has become a routinised activity for me. It has also provided me with a significant scholarship platform upon which I can expand further. I also hope it is a welcome addition to the existing studies around ethnic minority women, given the dearth of work that examines East Asian women’s experiences in the UK.

My book is a feminist analysis of East Asian (Chinese, Korean and Japanese) migrant women’s stories in terms of their identity construction of motherhood and employment, along with gender relations at home. Women’s roles are changing throughout the world. Over decades we have witnessed rising educational levels and the growing economic as well as political participation rates of females in many countries. However, gender remains a central marker of social division, and women’s lives in both the West and East continue to be moulded by their gender status, especially in conjunction with their race/ethnicity and class. In order to highlight the complex and multi-layered characteristics of identity construction, it deploys an intersectional framework. The book illuminates that intersections of multiple categories create different outcomes for identity (re)configurations between Chinese, Korean and Japanese women. As such, the book will appeal to those who are interested in intersectionality, identity, gender, ethnicity and migration studies, as well as narrative methods.

Chapter 1 outlines key themes in the book whilst situating the stories of East Asian migrant women within the broader debates around identity, subjectivity, detraditionalisation and individualisation. Chapter 2 discusses the question of identity with specific reference to East Asian migrant women in Britain. Chapter 3 explores intersectionality and storytelling in analysing East Asian women’s stories. Chapter 4 focuses on the stories of stay-at-home mothers, mostly from South Korea and Japan, which suggests a strong support for an intensive motherhood ideology. Chapter 5 shifts to the stories of employed mothers, which indicate the importance of employment for their identity, especially among those from China. Raised in the era of post-Mao gender equality, which encouraged women’s participation in the labour market, Chinese women tended to show strong worker identity, espousing the positive impacts of their employment on themselves and their children. Chapter 6 explores the gendered division of household labour. Whilst a minority of the Japanese women who married British men claimed to have a gender egalitarian division at home, the majority of women bore the brunt of domestic chores and childcare, regardless of their employment status, national/ethnic origins and financial status. The book highlights the persistent influence of their gendered beliefs, mostly rooted in their cultural/national heritage, simultaneously intersected by other factors, such as the location of settlement and their husband’s gender beliefs linked to their national/ethnic backgrounds.

Further details of the book can be found from: https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9783319756349