A Step From Heaven by An Na

The 2002 winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult literature.

Young Ju comes with her family to America. As they fly in the plane, Young Ju thinks they must be going to Heaven. Her Uhmma seems so happy toa step from heaven go to this America, it must be as wonderful as Heaven. An Na’s language took me back to college days when I had 3 Korean roommates. Her subtle language reflects exactly the grammar idiosyncrasies of new immigrants (not in the whole book, but at appropriate places). We had so much fun playing around with different words and the sounds that were difficult for my roommates to pronounce. I remember helping with grammar on English papers and being frustrated because you can’t change a whole paper to sound all-American without taking out the personality of the author, and the heritage they carry.

So, back to the story . . . Young Ju is frustrated by the discrepancies between home life- and true ‘American’ life. Her parents have brought with them traditional Korean ways, which when contrasted with discussions at school, bring Young Ju much difficulty. Americans think it is okay to question everything, but at home Young Ju must not question, or she is disrespectful. This story drives home the importance of family togetherness and understanding. Definitely sad parts, and difficult topics (physical and alcohol abuse), but overall a story of hope in America and the American dream.

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