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A Step from Heaven

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  6,273 Ratings  ·  637 Reviews
2001 National Book Award Nominee

When she is five, Young Ju Park and her family move from Korea to California. During the flight, they climb so far into the sky she concludes they are on their way to Heaven, that Heaven must be in America. Heaven is also where her grandfather is. When she learns the distinction, she is so disappointed she wants to go home to her grandmother
Audio Cassette, 4 pages
Published January 22nd 2002 by Listening Library (first published April 30th 2001)
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Jungsook Chung As a Korean, I was embarrassed and humiliated. Many episodes the author introduced lost the connections and not convincing. How could Young Ju…more As a Korean, I was embarrassed and humiliated. Many episodes the author introduced lost the connections and not convincing. How could Young Ju accomplish so well when she had a such abusive father? It needed more details in order to convince us.

No, I would not recommend you to read the book since I was not comfortable while reading the book with the following reasons.

Young Ju, the main character, lied big lies without suffering from guilty feelings; the first big lie saying her brother had died was not exposed and it led the second big lie that she pretended to be from a rich family. Somewhere else Young Ju was described to wear sneakers with a hole, so how could the best friend, Amanda and her parents not notice it? A girl who cheats her class mates and best friend cannot be said to be successful simply because she did very well in academic areas.(less)
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this book was very (view spoiler) i didn't think i was going to like it because it started out in the voice of (view spoiler)which was too (view spoiler) for me, but it thankfully changed as the female child-character grows up to show the slow acclimitization and americanization of a korean family and the struggles and triumphs they undergo, while still holding on to their roots. it is actually a very graceful and delica ...more
C.G. Drews
This was simultaneously excellent BUT hard to read. It's written from a really personal perspective, from the eyes of Young Ju, from when she's just a little tiny kid to when she's ready for college. YES. That's a lot of space to cover in less than 200 pages. BUT IT WORKS, PEOPLES, IT JUST WORKS.

But there's no speaking marks at the beginning which sent my brain into a small explosion. AND it gets super sad and abusive towards the end and just made me ache. It's basically about a Korean family m
Oct 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: printz
Here continues my quest to read all Printz winner books. This one wasn't as impressive as I expected it to be, but 4 stars nonetheless. I'll explain.

A Step from Heaven is story of a Korean family who come to the States to better their lives but fail at it because they bring with them their own personal troubles (mostly in a form of an abusive good-for-nothing father) and their traditional and foreign ideas of pride, honor, and submission.

A Step from Heaven is a gem of a book. In terms of litera
Jun 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At four years old, Young Ju does not understand that Mi Gook means America, not heaven. When her parents tell her will move to the magical Mi Gook with them, she assumes that they are going to a special, sacred place. She does not understand the problems sure to arise: struggling to learn a new language, financial problems her family face, and her father's escalating anger. As Young Ju takes time to transition into a life at America, she develops an unexpected, unique voice - one that possesses ...more
John Egbert
Apr 04, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody, honestly.
Don't be fooled. This book is not about immigrants -- it's about a girl who has to deal with an abusive father after coincidentally immigrating. The main character knows English awesome. Issues of immigration are hardly brought up, and when they are they're poorly tied into the abusive father. Many matters I would have loved to see more of are never addressed, and instead shoved aside for stupid things that I don't care about. Americans are made out to be the norm -- kind and quirky saviors. But ...more
Liz Janet
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is such a powerful piece of work exploring not only exploring the experiences of immigrants, but family dynamics, gender roles, and substance and physical abuse. Written from the perspective of a child, it truly deserves having won the Printz Award, as we slowly follow the family from moving from Korea, until Ju gets prepared to go to university, their struggles and strains a new culture puts on the family. Just great!!!
Duffy Pratt
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful book. The prose is simple and graceful. At times it's poetic, at times powerful, and at other times touching. The story is simple, true, and feels inevitable. The characters are believable, as are the situations. For what it is, the book is a little gem, and brilliant on its own terms.

I have a few quibbles about the book. The structure is deliberately episodic, and this means that decisions taken in one chapter don't often lead to obvious consequences in later chapters. Inste
CW (Read Think Ponder)
Don't mind the three stars - if this book won't be triggering to you and you want to read more immigrant stories, read this book. It's such an important narrative.

- This was such a difficult book to listen to (I listened to the audiobook) but it is such a hard-hitting story that intertwines an immigrant narrative with domestic abuse.
- The protagonist is Korean, and it starts when she is 4 and ends around the time she is about to leave home for college.
- This book does explore domestic abuse at
Jan 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This could have been four stars. It had the potential to be a really great book. But unfortunately it just isn't there. If it were longer it could have the chance to flesh out something other than the abuse. Any book dealing with abuse seems to revolve around it.

This book is about a young Korean girl, Young Ju, who immigrates to America with her family. While the summary says that they have difficulty learning English, that is only brought to light a few times. Young Ju learns it easily, as doe
Mar 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Korean family emigrates to the United States in search of a better life. Told from the viewpoint of the daughter, the story follows her from age four to age sixteen. She and her family encounter language difficulties, feelings of isolation, a struggle for identity, and an abusive relationship with her father. Young Ju, the daughter, goes to school with no understanding of English, and develops into one of the top members of her class. Apa, the father, begins to resent her acquisition of Englis ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mature middle school to adult readers
This book seems to have inspired a lot of passion from readers, both pro and con. I enjoyed it. I thought it was well-written, with a sympathetic main character and a thought-provoking look at Korean immigrant culture.

It's not perfect; there are a few plot holes and there are scenes that are probably too intense for some young readers. I would recommend it, depending on maturity level, for middle school and older.
Ben Peltier
Feb 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not only does An Na’s A Step from Heaven tell an excellent story, but the manner in which she tells this story and the issues brought up within it make it a fantastic book.

The story describes the childhood of Young Ju, a South Korean girl who moves to America very early in her life. Young Ju’s growth is not only shown through her experiences in the story, but it is also shown in the writing style. As the story begins, the sentences are short and choppy. They are what one might expect from a fo
This is the story of a Korean immigrant family who are looking for the American dream. They come to America when Young is five and believe it will solve all of their problems. They quickly discover that all of their personal problems and most of their everyday life problems have come with them. Young, eventually, advocates for her mother against her abusive, alcoholic father who leaves and the family begins to heal.

This book will appeal to teens who have an interest in poetry because it is writt
Mar 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen-books
4Q 2P MJ

A Step From Heaven is about a Korean girl who moves to America with her parents at a young age. As a child of immigrants, Young Ju feels torn between loyalty toward her family and culture and the American way of life. Her parents work long hours in unpleasant jobs and struggle to instill traditional Korean culture into their children. The writing style is very poetic and the narrator’s descriptions are very emotional.

The book is similar to others that I read, such as American Born Chine
♥ Sarah
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I was under the impression that this book was about the Korean American experience. Yet, what I read was flowery prose about a girl who misspells Korean words, and mostly only focuses on her alcoholic fathers' abuse.

Firstly, Young-Ju's younger brother calls her UHN-NEE. This is not only inaccurate, but it's ABSOLUTELY WRONG. When a younger male addresses an older female sibling, he is supposed to address her as NOO-NA. It's SO weird that this author, who is supposedly Korean - does not know suc
Casey Strauss
Jul 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-american
Young Ju is four years old when she and her parents move from Korea to America. Before the move, she hears her parents frequently talking about ‘Mi Gook’, and how life will be better there. Misunderstanding, Young believes that her family is moving to heaven as they fly through the clouds on the plane headed to the United States. Once her family has arrived, she is told that it is ‘a step from heaven’ and that in this country she can be anything she wants to be. As her family settles into their ...more
Myckayla Myers
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is about a four old girl and her family who moved from Korea to America and their struggles of making it in America. The main character is Young Ju. Through out this book Young must find out who she is while she pretends to be a perfect daughter of an oppressive father. Soon Young is given a little brother. Young isn't very happy about this new boy in her life. Her father likes him more and is given special treatment. But later she sees if you are suppose to be the son that honors the ...more
Ani Phelps
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book started out a little slow but had me in tears at the end.

It is about a girl who moved to America from Korea when she was four. Being a child of immigrants and an immigrant herself, her parents have strict rules and the transition for her is far from easy.

She started to feel like something was changing in her family. After her grandmother died, her father started drinking and smoking and only went to work sometimes. One night, when she felt something was not right, she stayed up and pee
C.E. G
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this story about a Korean family moving to the US. At first, I was skeptical about it's YA label because a) the story starts when the main character, Young Ju, is 4 years old and b) it uses a very poetic language with lots of unexplained Korean words in the first few chapters, which I imagine could be a tough sell to some teens. But as the story goes on, Young Ju gets older (the last chapter taking place right before she leaves for college), and it doesn't take THAT long to get acclimate ...more
This was an interesting glimpse into the life of a Korean girl who immigrates to the US with her family at a young age, and revolves mainly around her family adjusting to their new life and dealing with one another. Her story is told through a series of vignettes, with a lot of very creative metaphors and similes that give the book a very original and, in the beginning, sweet child-like point of view. I liked how the last vignette connected back to the first, somewhat redeeming--or at least show ...more
Sandy Yang
Apr 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Title: A Step From Heaven
Author: An Na

I really liked how this book is easy on the eyes and the tone is soothing. The author seems like a calm person, but yet engages the reader throughout the book.
It's about a young girl who moved from a place in Korea, Mi Gook, into America, starting life all over. Her father and mother were doing fine, and she soon received a brother. She was learning english and found herself a best friend. As she knew that having a best friend did not mean you had to tell
Sarah Stewart
Sarah Stewart
Multicultural literature
Young Ju’s life is changed when her parents decide to move to America, or Mi Gook as they say in Korea, in hopes of a better life. Young Ju must leave her grandmother, her Halmoni, behind though. In America, Young Ju becomes and older sister to her brother Joon. She describes a struggle in being a girl and being the oldest sibling. Also weaved throughout the book is the abuse she and her family must endure from her father. The book, ranging from age three to
Christina Sandberg
Moving into a new culture while keeping the mindset and many of the traditions of the old culture can be like trying to fit together pieces from two different puzzles. This is what Young Ju learns as she makes the transition from her homeland of Korea to the United States of America. An Na tells a story of change, familial struggles, and hope using the voice of Korean immigrant Young Ju.
When Young Ju learns that she is moving to America she believes that she is going to heaven. Soon, however, sh
May 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-school, teen
This is a book about a Korean girl in America and her family. It starts out with memories from Korea which end up having strong significance at the end of the story. The protagonist is the daughter of an alcoholic and abusive father. The book is very well written and believable. It is sad but also shows the strength of the characters. The mother encourages her daughter to dream because she says in America women can be anything. There are a lot of family dynamics present: frustration, embarrassme ...more
Mrs. Trimble
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beautifully written, this story of a Korean family acculturating to America explores issues of fitting in, of love and strength, of expectations of men vs. women, and of abuse (non-graphically). Young Ju is a very likable character, despite her flaws, and though I found it a little hard going at first because of the mixing in of some Korean words, the beauty of the language soon drew me in, as did the symbolism - this book reads like poetry, sometimes. For example, describing her American uncle ...more
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Step From Heaven is both sweet and amazing, but also sad and bitter. A step from heaven describes the story of a family moving to America. When they come to America at first it is more or less great. But, slowly the family draws apart and then it becomes a very sad story. This book does have some mention of abuse so it is more for older kids. This book will make you cry and smile at the same time. You get to know Young Ju and how she feels about America. A great read!
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A simple yet touching book. The way the Young shared the story from her point of view was captivating and beautiful.

It showed the conflicts of a little Korean girl, from short succinct sentences to intricate thoughts. The whole book's development was smooth and the story revealed itself in a delicate and deep way.
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-s-books
A very quick but beautifully written book. Told from Young Ju, a Korean immigrant who traveled to California with her parents when she was 4 years old. There was so much heart put into the words that I couldn't just put it down. A story about wanting a better life for their family, struggling with changes and cultures, and working hard to keep on dreaming until it becomes more than a dream.
This book is amazingly real and haunting but so beautiful at the same time. The emotion is so raw and so consistent, I couldn't put the book down for one second. A beautiful read for anyone who enjoys stories about families from other cultures who move to America searching for the American Dream.
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An Na was born in Korea and grew up in San Diego, California. A former middle school English and history teacher, she is currently at work on her third novel. She lives in Vermont.

(from Web site)
More about An Na

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“Your life can be different, Young Ju. Study and be strong. In America, women have choices.” 10 likes
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