A Step from Heaven

by An Na
ages: 14+
First sentence: “Just to the edge, Young Ju.”
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Young Ju is just a small girl when her family leaves Korea for America. They are hoping for something better, a future besides fishing boats for their children. It’s not easy being in America: her father struggles for work, her mother is forbidden by her father to work, and Young Ju is walking a line between worlds: she’s neither fully American or Korean.

It’s a common story, one that I’m sure every immigrant family could tell: of the trials adjusting to a new country, of trying to hold on to the old one. Of wanting a better life for your children, and sacrificing everything you have for them. And An Na tells it well: it’s a spare book, told from Young Ju’s point of view, but it’s haunting and moving and hopeful, all put together. She shows the journey from first arriving and not knowing the language through to a Young becoming a successful high school graduate, with the world It’s an interesting look into a Korean family, though I won’t say it’s Korean culture; aside from the bits and snatches of language, I would be wary about calling it “typical”.

See, the domestic violence got to me: sure, I can understand the need for male dominance in Asian cultures, but it still grates on me. And the Apa, the father, in this story demonstrated this need, combined with and fueled from a sense of powerlessness, through abusing his wife and daughter (and to a lesser extent, his son). It was horrible, horrifying, and disturbing and disgusting.

And so, while this book was well written and important and interesting and good, I find myself not really liking it. Perhaps because it is just too raw.

3 thoughts on “A Step from Heaven

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