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Nearly 250 years ago, a group of white men gathered in a house in Massachusetts to draft a document on independence aimed at the British crown. A woman who was enslaved in the house overheard the discussion, and determined the words applied to her, too.

Bett, who was later called Mumbet, was born enslaved south of Albany, N.Y., around 1742. In her teens Bett was brought to the home of John and Hannah Ashley, in Sheffield, Mass., where she cleaned, cooked and served the family.

Halfway through her debut essay collection, Minor Feelings, author and artist Cathy Park Hong makes clear her mission: "I have some scores to settle ... with this country, with how we have been scripted."

The "we" here are Asian Americans and how we're seen in this country in a time when the us-versus-them dynamic can feel overpowering. In Minor Feelings, the author asks us to reconsider the effects of racism against Asian Americans and how it persists.

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