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Monday, May 31, 2021

Review: Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh

Finding Junie Kim
by Ellen Oh

Thanks so much to HarperKids for this gorgeous gifted book.

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: May 4, 2021
368 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

A story of family, hope, and survival, inspired by the author's mother’s real-life experiences during the Korean War. Faced with middle school racism, Junie Kim learns of her grandparents’ extraordinary strength and finds her voice.

Junie Kim just wants to fit in. So she keeps her head down and tries not to draw attention to herself. But when racist graffiti appears at her middle school, Junie must decide between staying silent or speaking out.

Then Junie’s history teacher assigns a project and Junie decides to interview her grandparents, learning about their unbelievable experiences as kids during the Korean War. Junie comes to admire her grandma’s fierce determination to overcome impossible odds, and her grandpa’s unwavering compassion during wartime. And as racism becomes more pervasive at school, Junie taps into the strength of her ancestors and finds the courage to do what is right. 

My Review:

Excuse me as I pick my feelings up off of the floor where my emotions drained. I'm not crying.  I'M NOT! This book GOT TO ME.  This story gives us current climate racism, mental health, Korean War history, friendship, grief, pride, resilience with a dash of after school special.  I couldn't love this book any more.

I felt so SEEN through Junie's character and what it feels like to be one of very few POC in a school.  "Truth is, even though I was born and raised here, I'll never be truly American to her." GAH.  While Junie and her diverse group of friends deal with their feelings of the racism and bullying happening in their school, they are all layered characters and we get deep past this top layer into all the action and reactions that accompany.  The stars of this book are the grandparents and it's through Junie's relationship with her grandfather and his story telling that we see her growth.  We get immediately transported in their story telling of their love story but also their own very different experiences with the Korean War.  I LEARNED SO MUCH ABOUT MY CULTURE.  I'm not usually big on a history lesson but I imagined what it would've been like as if my own Korean grandfather (whom I never knew) was talking to me. 

There's so much to unpack from this story.  Please read this.  Especially if you're Korean.  And when you do, be sure to read the Author's note. 

"At the time, half full was still quite a lot.  I don't remember when I started noticing that it was actually half empty."

"Instead of seeing us as these horrible words, see us as people."  Our name is not commie or chink or dog eater or North Korean spy.  Her name is Junie.  My name is Chandra.  And Junie, your grandpa would've absolutely loved you getting his story out there.


1 comment:

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