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Archive: Other Books > When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park - 4 stars

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message 1: by Barbara M (new)

Barbara M (barbara-m) | 2149 comments When My Name was Keoko : a novel of Korea in World War II
Expand Your Horizons

This story is not just of Keoko a/k/a Sun-hee but also very much about her older brother, Tae-yul. Their story starts in 1940 in their village in what will be So. Korea. Sun-hee is 10 years old and her brother is 13. It starts as the Japanese have made the rule that all Koreans must take on Japanese names and it causes great pain in the Kim family. Their names have special meaning to them. Abuji (father) comes up with a solution they can live with. However, in the home and throughout the book Sun-hee is rarely referred to as Keoko unless it is when she is in public or in school.

The chapters alternate between Sun-hee and Tae-yul as we see the changes in Korea as Japan enters into the war with the US. This period is seen through the eyes of the children told in the first person from each child’s point-of-view, in alternating chapters. These children have been raised to speak Japanese in public and school but at home they speak Korean. However, they write only in Japanese. They have never know their land as a free Korea, without the Japanese occupation which started in 1910, their grandparents' time.

The story takes us from 1940 to 1945, and the end of the war. The tension is high as Tae-yul ages to the point where he could be taken into the Japanese army. Sun-hee sees the day when the older girls are picked to go to Japan to work in the factories (as we see in the afterword, that isn’t entirely true and I know from having read White Chrysanthemum.) Which is later confirmed in the author’s afterword

This is a children’s book, probably aimed at Middle Schoolers. The author does an excellent job in the beginning by sharing some Korean terms that she uses throughout the book like: Abuji for father, and Omani for mother. That was very helpful. In the afterword she explains where she got much of the story, mostly from her parents and other members of her family. Having read that, I feel very certain that much of this story is biographical.

Very well done and I’m pleased to have included this book in my Expand Your Horizon reading.


message 2: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7121 comments Nice review-this cultural challenge is really bringing forward a lot of books I would never have looked at!


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