One in Two Thousand: Stephanie Kim ’10

At 5-foot-0-inches, Stephanie H. Kim ’10 hardly strikes the nonchalant observer as someone remotely connected to Irish dance. However, as “the short Asian girl in INISH,” she singlehandedly increases the group’s diversity level by 100 percent. Packed to the brim with random Wikipedia and Google knowledge, she spent last spring semester in Ireland studying towards her English major and honing her dancing skills. I met with Stephanie last Saturday outside the Record office upstairs in Paresky.

So you’re writing your thesis on …?
Madeleine L’Engle.

Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite series as a child!
Really? It’s due on Monday, so I’m freaking out a lot right now, it’s pretty much 24/7. Basically, it turned into this whole thing on individuals and community, and I made it very “English-major-ey.” I wanted to write a thesis, but would only do it on something I would really love and enjoy for a whole year, and one of my friends at home said, “Well obviously you have to write about children’s literature,” because that’s all I read in my spare time. I pretty much like any children’s stuff that’s good, as long as its decent quality.

Is Harry Potter literature?
I think it is, but my terrible dirty little secret is that I didn’t actually read Harry Potter until very recently. What happened was, I read the first one, and fell asleep while I was reading the second, so I just sort of missed the boat when they were coming out. All my friends were reading, and I thought they were really overrated because I fell asleep while reading it and then it became like, the literature of our generation. And by the time I wanted to just sit down and read all the books or watch all of the movies, there were just too many of them. So I faked my way through pretty much forever by Wikipedia-ing Harry Potter so I was well-versed enough to talk about it.

Oh my … that’s so sneaky!
It is sneaky. I probably knew more about Harry Potter than everyone who has read all the books because I got all my information from Wikipedia. Some people were very angry when they found out – [INISH dancer] Alicia [Cook ’11] was very offended. Every time they brought up Harry Potter and I was like, “Oh yeah, like that time when Harry …,” they’d go along with it, and suddenly remember I’d never read them. But I did read them all, last fall, and I think I have redeemed myself.

I thought I was a wizard until I was 13 years old.
That’s so sad! Because I feel like some kids are disappointed when they get to that age and … it’s devastating.

When I didn’t get into Hogwarts, I wrote myself an acceptance letter. Green ink and all. The angst! Sitting there and just waiting for your owl…
Wow, complete denial. That’s a lot of devotion. See, I missed that dark period and that early childhood trauma because I hadn’t read them. Spared a big life disappointment.

Of the series you read for your thesis, one was more science-fiction and the other was …?
It was more of a “girl” novel about coming of age.

Which one did you prefer reading?
I would say they both spoke to me at different times, Wrinkle in Time when I was younger and when I rediscovered it in college. Meet the Austins had more meaning for me in the intervening years, and was very much what I was into in middle school and high school.

Why aren’t you including Many Waters in your thesis?
It’s just kind of crazy. They go back to Noah’s Ark, and it’s hard to follow. But you know, I obviously love it, because everyone in it is like four feet tall, and I would have been above average height in their society.

How tall are you?
I am five feet, zero inches.

At least it’s a round number.
I always have to say “five feet and zero inches” because I say “five feet” and people are like “and?” There’s no “and.”

I’ve heard you’re also a concentrator in Jewish studies?
So this is my spiel about how I’m so diverse and basically claiming Williams by myself. So I’m an English major, Jewish studies concentrator, I’ve been taking Arabic for three years, I’m Asian, I’m a pastor’s kid and I do Irish dance. But anyway, all those things came up really randomly and just sort of happened.

I also heard that you’re somewhat of a resident expert on narwhals. What are they?
Exactly! They’re whales, they live in the arctic and they have, like, unicorn horns. They’re tusks, but they’re essentially unicorn horns, and the legends of unicorns came from them.

Are they real?
They’re real! They’re kind of endangered by global warming, actually more endangered than polar bears, but they’re not as cute, and nobody believes they exist, so you can’t talk about them as much. I read this whole article about them once!

Was it a Wikipedia article?
This one wasn’t! But I do believe pretty much anything Wikipedia tells me. Anyhow, narwhals are really cool, and basically I thought they were made up because they sound made up and they look made up. But more importantly, there’s an episode of my favorite TV show in the world, which is Arthur, that has a narwhal in it. So there’s an episode where Francine and her sister are fighting all the time and they share a room, so they decide to get separate rooms and her sister moves to the living room. Francine’s imagining how she has all this space now in her bedroom, that she can get a pet, so she’s imagining pets and she imagines a narwhal. But because in Arthur, when you’re imaging things, it’s all wavy and sparkly and has that special dream music, the narwhal popped up with all that wavy sparkly dream music stuff, so I was like “Oh, it’s like this fantastical creature!” and several years later I just discovered this was a real animal.

And what do they do with that big tooth?
They fight each other when mating and they … I don’t even remember. I might be making it up, but I think they use it to go through ice. I can see why you’d want a tusk that large if you lived in the Arctic Ocean.

So do you sing Arthur songs to yourself? Like maybe on the way to class, like Arthur?
To myself, no! I sing them in the company of other people who I think would appreciate them.

And that would be who, exactly?
Everybody. How could you not appreciate them? Okay, my excuse is that one of my best friends from home has little sisters, and when I was in high school they bought the little sisters an Arthur CD and she burned me a copy. So I’ve had it ever since on my computer and iPod, and it comes up pretty often on Shuffle mode, so you know, eventually you learn them all really well. Well, I mean, I learned them all really well from the episodes in which they appear, but it’s reinforcement.

That’s reasonable excuse, I guess.
And actually, I have this whole theory about Arthur: I think it’s brilliant social commentary that totally has two levels, one for adults who can appreciate it on one level and one for kids who can appreciate it on another. I think the writers are insanely clever and always make a lot of weird social references or inside jokes that you wouldn’t get as a child. There was this whole episode where everyone has these toys called Woogles and they’re just these stupid doll things, but everyone gets them and they become a big fad, and Arthur doesn’t get one because they’re dumb, but then he realizes that everyone has one and he wants one. His parents get him one and the only one they could find was a Poogle, which is a knockoff, so when he brings it to school everyone laughs at him. And that was supposed to be the Beanie Baby craze, which I think was totally similar, because everyone wanted these stupid little dolls just because everyone else had them.

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