‘Variations on a Theme’ by Christina Im

— Reneé Bibby

What is the song of your ancestors? What is the music of your family? What melody tinkles, thrashes, bee-bops or swells with the everyday moments of life—what is the soundtrack of your becoming? Christina Im’s essay, ‘Variations on a Theme,’ is an answer to those questions. She explores the music, literal and figurative, that underscores her complicated relationship with her Korean-born father. The complications are common: the natural tension of child/parental friction as a young person seeks a louder, more raucous, world outside the gentle lullabies of childhood; and then the complications are more rare: the tension of an ever-widening gap between being of-here and being here, when a daughter navigates a cultural landscape in a way that her father cannot because he wasn’t born here. As a first-born American on my father’s side, Im’s exploration of this immigration divide felt particularly poignant. Im’s essay is a swelling ode to the grief of growing, of having to let go of a parent, and hoping to return to them some day. It’s about imperfect moments of hurt and then reconnection. About the music of family, of father, and forgiveness.

Half Mystic