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When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

When My Name Was Keoko (2002)

by Linda Sue Park

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When I first started reading this book, I couldn't get into it and I thought I was going to have to force myself to read the whole thing. Once I got to page 70 something, it all turned around and I couldn't put it down. I really liked how the author switched view points between Tae-Yul and Sun-Hee. I thought this gave me different ways of seeing the story and the different things that they were thinking and going through. I also really liked the information that I got out of this book. Although I am twenty and have been going to school for so long, I feel as if I learned so much more from reading a children's book. I thought putting in the little quirks of their culture and family life really added to the feel of the book and it made me connect to the characters all that well. Another thing that I liked was how believable the characters were. I think that the big idea from this book was just to show a perspective of the war from a side that is rarely seen. ( )
  kelleemorcomb | Sep 30, 2014 |
Grade: 6-10
When My Name was Keoko is an amazing novel that takes places in 1940's Korea. During this time Japan had invaded Korea and took over the land, the people and the culture. What makes this novel so special is that it is written from the perspective of a young Korean girl named Suhn-hee and her brother Tae-yul. The book is a biography of the unique experiences that this war has had on the two siblings. I really liked this style of writing because the two experiences were both so unique that you could get a good idea of what war life was like for many Koreans, soldiers and non. In order to help protect his family Tae-yul enlisted in the Japanese army. After volunteering (with a plan) to be a part of a suicide mission his family gets word that he is dead but the mission was never completed and Tae-yul lived. This book discusses themes of family, culture, hope, and war. Throughout the entire novel you are clearly able to see how important family is to each one of the characters. Tae-yul almost gave up his life to protect his uncle and provide a better life for his family. ( )
  danielleshorr | Sep 30, 2014 |
While this book has not been my favorite, I did like reading it for a few reasons. My favorite part of the book is how the author incorporated the kanji symbols into the writing. For instance, Sun-hee describes the character ‘ask’ or ‘question’ by breaking down each part of the character and explaining it to Opah. The kanji characters were actually drawn into the book and I thought this was a really interesting aspect of the book. I also liked that this book forced the reader to think about other cultures and gain an appreciation for what we have not had to endure. This book is an excellent window book for readers. I have never been forced into another culture like the Kaneyama family. Specifically I have never had to change my last name, be forbidden from reading, learning, and speaking in my native language or be prohibited from displaying the flag of my country. Finally I liked the language used in the book. I especially liked that the Korean terms of address were used throughout the story. These terms show not only the relationship to the person, but also signify rank, respect and affection. Each of the names has meaning and I think using them in the story showed the families ability to hold onto their culture despite the Japanese. This story has several big ideas/messages; one is the appreciation of a culture different from yours and the other being the value of freedom. ( )
  EmilyBeer | Sep 30, 2014 |
While kind of a niche, historical books that take place during WW2 are a genre that have always fascinated me. Books like this one which follows the different experiences of it's characters are always an interesting read as well. WW2 was a war that encompassed many different nations and cultures. Thus, there are thousands of different interpretations of how it took place, and what it's impact was. It is more than just one side vs the other, but the hundreds of nations and millions of people on both sides of the war that experienced things differently. All in all, this book's perspective on the war was a truly engrossing one. Few American schools focus on the Japanese side of the war aside from Pearl Harbor and the bombs that were dropped. While I did know that Japan was fighting China at the time of the World War, I was unaware that Japan's influence reached to Korea as well. The book's use of different viewpoints between the brother and the sister was very interesting and kept me captivated. Often they experienced things separately but when they did go through the same event, it was interesting see both of their point of views. Sharing different perspectives with others is something that I believe is important to learn. In addition to having multiple perspectives within the book, the book itself is just one perspective in the millions of other views and experiences of WW2. One last reason why this book is pretty amazing is that throughout all the suffering and strife in this family's life, they persevere. Even when the Japanese take away their very names, even when they believe that their only son has died, they stay strong. Overall this book is about the love of family and about telling one's story. The theme of perspectives is apparent throughout and makes this story a very strong and memorable one. ( )
  MattM50 | Sep 29, 2014 |
When My Name was Keoko was a story of a families struggle as they dealt with the Japanese occupation of Korea. It is filled with ups and downs as the family tries to keep their Korean identity while trying not to upset the Japanese. The Japanese comes in and are trying to stamp out the Korean culture to replace it with theirs. The story is centered on a Korean family where Sun-Hee and her brother Tae-yul view the turmoil their family is in. At first, I thought I would not like this book as it started off slow, and took constant review to understand some of the Korean terms. For example, Abuji meant father, Omoni means mother, and Opha means older brother. As the story unfolded I really got into the story and found that I really enjoyed reading it as it kept me guessing. Frist the book was written from two different points of view, one from the brother’s and the other from sisters. Further more, this story’s plot keeps you intrigued by using suspense, tension, as well as, the conflicts that arise in the story. Most importantly this book push readers to think about tough issues that happen to real people and how they handle them.

Presenting the story from two different points of view helps the reader get a better understanding of how the roles and responsibilities differ between the genders in Korean culture and how the characters feel about them. For example, in the very beginning of the book Sun-Hee has to secretly listen in on a conversation that her father, uncle, and brother are having because as she says, “ I wasn’t supposed to listen to men’s business,”. Then you get to see the event from her brothers perspective, “ Sun-Hee is a real pain sometimes. Always asking questions, always wanting to know what’s going on. I tell her it’s none of her business, which is true.” By writing through two different eyes it not only gives us insight into the Korean culture it also allows us to feel the characters emotions and experience what they are going through. For example, when Sun-Hee thinks she makes a terrible mistake by telling her uncle he needed to leave the author makes you experience it with her as she stated “Instead of saving Uncle, I’d put him is terrible danger. When the Japanese found out he had left suddenly, they’d know for certain he was a rebel.”

The plot of this story really keeps you on your toes. It is very suspenseful all the way through especially as you discover that there uncle is part of the resistance that is trying to get rid of the Japanese occupation. You also get to see Tae-yul go against his father’s wishes, which is not something a son would do in the Korean culture, and join the Imperial Army to help keep his Uncle from being captured. Tae-yul then becomes a pilot and even a Kamikaze. One thing that really helps move the plot and story along was how the author would end each person’s perspective. She would leave it at a moment when you did not want to stop reading to build suspense and tension. It made you want to keep reading so you could get back to that person’s story to find out what was going to happen. For example, when she ends one of Sun-Hee parts with “ He leaned toward me and spoke softly. “Sun-Hee, Uncle is still alive and still working for the resistance.”

Finally, the story really pushes readers to think about a topic most people would not really understand. It makes you think about what it would really be like to have your freedoms taken away, having to take a new name, because you Korean name was consider unworthy by the Japanese. It pushes you as reader to think about oppression and what that might really be like if you as the reader had to walk in their shoes. The Japanese take food, clothes, metal, enforced all sorts of rules, like you have to speak and write in Japanese, cannot hang the Korean flag, and important job positions cannot be held by Koreans. It makes you think about the sacrifices you would make to keep you family safe like Tae-yul does by enlisting in the army or making sure you do not let slip secrets that can cause serve consequences like Sun-Hee does.

This is a truly amazing story that is all about family, cultural heritage, and the sheer will too keep ones culture alive in times where its destruction is sought. The book teaches the most important lesson throughout the entire book that families that stick together, support and love each other, with those components they can with stand more than meet they eye. ( )
  AlexWyatt | Sep 29, 2014 |
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To my children: Sean and Anna

and for my parents:
Eung Won/Nobuo/Ed
Joung Sook/Keoko/Susie
First words
"It's only a rumor," Abuji said as I cleared the table.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440419441, Paperback)

Inspired by her own family's stories of living in South Korea during the Japanese occupation in the years preceding World War II, Newbery Medal-winning author Linda Sue Park chronicles the compelling story of two siblings, 10-year-old Sun-hee and 13-year-old Tae-yul, and their battle to maintain their identity and dignity during one of Korea's most difficult and turbulent times. In alternating first-person chapters, they relate their family's troubles under the strict fascist regime. The Kim family is stripped of their cultural symbols, only permitted to learn Japanese history and language, and forced to convert their names to Japanese. Sun-hee, now Keoko, struggles to reconcile her Korean home life with her Japanese school and friends, while Tae-yul, now Nobuo, attempts to convert his growing anger into a more positive passion for flight and airplanes. Both are worried for their uncle, whom they discover is printing an underground Korean resistance paper. When Sun-hee inadvertently puts her uncle's life in danger, she sets in motion a chain of events that results in her brother volunteering as a pilot for the Japanese near the end of WWII. While Sun-hee and her parents wait in breathless uncertainty to hear from Tae-yul, the war rushes to a close, leaving Korea's destiny hanging in the balance. This well-researched historical novel is accompanied by a thoughtful author's note that explains what happened to Korea and families like the Kims after WWII and a bibliography to entice interested young readers into learning more about a topic largely unknown to American audiences. (Ages 10 to 14) --Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:36 -0400)

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With national pride and occasional fear, a brother and sister face the increasingly oppressive occupation of Korea by Japan during World War II, which threatens to suppress Korean culture entirely.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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