Tara's Reviews > When My Name Was Keoko

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
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's review
Apr 14, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: mc-literature, realistic-fiction
Read in April, 2010


When my name was Keoko was a great read. Park does a nice job of presenting the Korean point of view of World War II and does so with a very inviting and engaging narration. The chapters go between the point of view of Keoko/Sun-hee and her brother Nobuo/Tae-yul, allowing the reader to see the same happenings from two different minds. It is the story of a Korean family struggling to keep their Korean identity and culture while working to survive World War two and the Japanese occupation. The family runs into more personal struggles when their uncle, who works on an illegal Korean newspaper, must flee and the brother must join the Japanese army in order to protect his uncle.

I believe When my name was Keoko is culturally authentic. This book was written by Linda Sue Park who was born and raised an American, but by Korean immigrant parents. Factually, the story of Sun-hee and her family is correct as it discusses Korea and Korean’s experience during World War II. It also includes a great amount of Korean culture both in what the family does and in discussion of what they are not able to do during the war. Park also ties in Korean culture through the use of Korean terms of address for each of the family members (Abuji for father, Omoni for mother, Opah for younger brother, Yobo as a term of endearment between husband and wife, etc…)

I enjoyed that Keoko/Sun-hee is baffled when she learns that the American troops may not be able to tell the Koreans apart from the Japanese. She then explains how simple it is to tell the Korean men apart from the Japanese men by describing how each looks (size, height, coloration, etc…) I found the child-like exploration of racism innocent yet powerful. In fact, everything as explored through the eyes of Keoko/Sun-hee and her brother was more powerful than if it had been told by an adult character or even an outside narrator. An example of this is when Tae-yul narrates, “They’re doing it again. taking whatever they want. Grandfather’s hair, Omoni’s jewelry, Sun-hee’s diary. My bicycle. And we can’t do anything to stop them… This time, I have to do something” (119-120). Right after this he joins the Japanese Imperial forces in order to protect his uncle and family.

This book is a great choice for students and children of different ages as it can be explored on different levels. This book is rich with historical information about the war as well as rich with information of Korean culture and so can be used in a historical context of either. Because it is told from the point of view of a young girl, children can relate to her and thus connect with her story and it can be used to show students how youth from other parts of the world live and what their struggles are. Or, this book can be used as an engaging and interesting read just for enjoyment.
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