ID: Jina Kim, English, women and gender professor at Smith

  • Jina Kim. Photographed on Friday, August 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jina Kim. Photographed on Friday, August 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING


Published: 8/16/2019 9:07:14 AM
Modified: 8/16/2019 9:07:03 AM

Assistant professor Jina Kim says living in a “weirdo-magnet” like Northampton gives her space to explore feminist politics and her own particular brand of weird in ways that she couldn’t during her upbringing in a conservative suburb of Atlanta.

Touring her historically all-female alma mater, Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia, “ignited this proto-feminist feeling” that informed Kim’s academic interest in contemporary writers of color, queer-inclusive feminism and disability studies. Kim followed that feeling to the Pioneer Valley, where she spent two years in a postdoctoral fellowship at Mount Holyoke College. Kim has recently finished her first year of “a dream job” — teaching English and the study of women and gender at Smith.

On campus or around town, you can spot her rocking looks inspired by the aesthetics of the American South and trends of the 1980s (think big hair, high-waisted pants, red lipstick).

Full name: Jina Boyong Kim

People know you as: Jina, or Professor Kim in my professional life. Jiji [and] Bean [are] sometimes nicknames.

Astrological sign: Aries

Place of birth: Atlanta, Georgia

Town of residence: Northampton

Job: Assistant professor of English and the study of women and gender at Smith College

Favorite thing about where you live: I’m really compelled and moved every day by the natural beauty of the landscape. I feel like that will never get old. [It’s also] a good place for me to be the total weirdo that I am.

Book you’d recommend to a friend: Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” Another book I read that really floored me was Kiese Laymon’s “Heavy.” Both books are letters written to their mother. For whatever reason, this form is a really robust form for thinking about questions of intergenerational trauma, addiction and race in America.

Book you’d recommend to a student: Jesmyn Ward’s “Sing, Unburied, Sing” has been my favorite book of maybe the last five years. It’s sort of about thinking about how the prison industrial complex is a reincarnation of slavery.

First concert: Lilith Fair, 1998. It was a festival that was all women in music [spearheaded by Sarah McLachlan.] So when I went, the Indigo Girls played, Queen Latifah, Meredith Brooks ... and of course Sarah McLachlan.

What do you listen to while driving?: I’ve always been a kind of music fiend. Lately I’ve been returning to my ‘90s alternative and indie rock. So of course, that includes people like Hole (so Courtney Love), Pavement, Sonic Youth, Porno for Pyros.

Favorite items of clothing to pair: When I’m teaching, I really try to go for Dolly Parton in “9 to 5” meets Josie Packard in “Twin Peaks.” A lot of secretary blouses, bold geometric patterns... a lot of color. High-waisted crop, platform shoe.

Best advice your grandmother ever gave you: My grandmother didn’t actually speak English, [but] I think there are other ways to inherit wisdom other than language. She always made sure I had cut up fruit to eat. So I think that I learned about acts of care and the importance of nonverbal communication.

Favorite meal: Kimchi stew

One little-known fact about you: I went to Space Camp at the age of 17. Me and my friend were definitely the oldest people there.

If you could go anywhere…: I would really love to go back to Korea. I went once when I was 15, and I have really been wanting to go back as an adult... with a friend or colleague who speaks Korean.

Best gift you’ve received: I just like having really meaningful conversations with people where I feel like I’m being listened to and understood, and where I can also listen to and understand the other person. I mean, I like things. I’m not trying to say I’m not materialistic!

Bad habits: I am addicted to Candy Crush. It’s an important procrastination tool for me.

Worst movie you’ve ever seen: Gaspar Noé’s “Enter the Void.” It’s the only movie I’ve walked out on. It was like relentless torture.

Where do you escape to?: I’m an extrovert, so I do recharge by social interaction. Academia can be an isolating profession — you spend a lot of time alone thinking and writing. So I like having a drink with a friend, or friends — that is my preferred method of escapism.

Favorite color: Red, for sure.

Favorite movie: Pedro Almodóvar’s “All About My Mother.” It’s very campy, which is an important part of my aesthetic and life philosophy.

Favorite television show: Right now, it’s definitely “Pen15.”

Last place you traveled to: Atlanta to visit friends and family.

Hidden talent: I am quite good at decorating a room.

Best teacher you ever had: I will always have a very soft spot for my AP Literature teacher, Mrs. Finch. That was the first place I had read any contemporary writers of color. I think it was just really important to know contemporary questions around race and gender are important to writers.

If you could get dinner/a drink with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?: Zora Neale Hurston

Favorite place to shop: The online shop

Parting shot: Reverse racism isn’t real.


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