Maps, Masks, Monsters

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is what the society we live in tells us, but this society is lying. The beauty culture promoted as standard leaves us feeling more vulnerable than ever, and the perfection it requires allows for no error. Our sense of belonging depends on how beautiful we are, how well we perform, and how closely we conform to the ideals placed before us. For those like me who have grown up feeling alienated from their own cultures, these standards only add more weight to our heavy baggage.

Maps, Masks, and Monsters explores what it means to be multicultural, beautiful, and perfect in the form of a memoir mixed with analytical writing. It addresses issues of personal insecurities and pain arising from unrealistic cultural expectations and pressures to conform. It is a quiet critique of the beauty culture – not just its portrayal of ideal physical appearances, but also its narrow focus on unrealistic standards of goodness, perfection, and how things are supposed to be. With my own personal cross-cultural background and experiences as the foundation, Maps, Masks, and Monsters aims to understand how cultures and traditions shape identity and question the influence of the beauty and perfection culture we live in. Who makes the rules, and why do we feel we must follow them? How do cultural and beauty expectations affect us? Who benefits from our submission? How can we feel whole when the world seems to tell us we will never be enough?

Danbee Park

Thesis advisor:
Ian Lynam

This physical book was created as part of my “safe space” exercise. While the pages have been printed at my local printer, I did the binding myself. I put aside any judgement on form and focused on enjoying the bookbinding process with all of its entailing imperfections coming from my human hand.

The book is a representation of me and all those who see themselves as not being enough. People do not feel drawn to open a book with nothing on the cover even if amazing stories
may lie within. But what if they had a preview? When you fear judgment and rejection, it is scary to reveal yourself to others. But we all have a story to tell and our voices should be heard. We are all valuable. Appearance alone cannot reveal who we are – our thoughts, experiences, and values are omitted. So let’s give ourselves the chance to have our voices heard. Let’s uncover what is underneath the surface. Let’s cut through the cover and reveal what truly matters.