A Gesture Life

Exploring the Reality of Being an Asian Immigrant College

The accusation that the character “Doc” Franklin Hata lives “a gesture life” gives title to Chang-rae Lee’s novel about the Asian-immigrant experience of displacement and identity when assimilating into American society. A Gesture Life explores the many layers of Asian-immigrants and their pursuit of the American dream, away from their very different lives back home, but Lee introduces and explores a character who, despite his efforts and the adversity he faces, cannot achieve this dream. However, even with this obstacle, Hata has a comfortable lifestyle and a beautiful coveted home in Bedley Run, glossing over and in contrast to this fact. While on the surface, Chang-rae Lee presents Franklin Hata as a well-respected and successful member of the Bedley Run community, the misnomers of Hata in A Gesture Life point to his ultimate failure as an immigrant embodying the American Dream.

The differences between Hata’s assimilated American identity and his true identity mix of Japanese and Korean are highlighted throughout A Gesture Life, providing an insight into a warped version of what it means to be an Asian immigrant. In order to show a clear contrast between his American identity and his Asian origins, Lee uses “Franklin” to...

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