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It is so important to reach out to our grandparents. We are loosing their generation fast. And with the generation we are loosing stories of struggle and resilience. I am missing my grandparents so much today. My grandma died in April 2021. I wish I had written down the stories she would tell us all the time.
I have read many Korean War novels. I have read many Young Adult novels. I was blown away by the melding of the two. As a mom of Korean American children, I was moved not only by the realistic depictions of situations faced at school, but also the heartbreaking authenticity of a young person struggling with depression. I feel like a lot of young people will be able to see themselves in Junie in really meaningful ways. Ellen Oh provides details about the Korean War through the grandparents' narratives in a way that shows the brutality of the war and its impact on children. She reminds us that behind so many wrinkled smiles there are stories of unbelievable hardship and suffering but also of triumph and bravery. She reminds us of the deep value in talking with our elders, and recording their stories. Many of us don't know the personal stories of our parents because we assume they are too difficult to tell or that there will be another time for them to share them...this novel reminds us of the urgency of hearing those stories and recording them. Junie also confronts racism in a way I find hopeful. Many Y/A novels problematize nonwhite identities and provide no real, actionable thoughts on combatting racism. Junie and her friends have a realistic and meaningful response that is critical to think about in this climate. I don't think my 9 year old is old enough to hear about the war in this detail, but I will keep this book ready for a year or two from now, and in the mean time, I plan to have my husband read it. Powerful, beautiful and important. Thank you for this book, Ellen Oh.