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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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I had mixed feelings about this book. "When My Name Was Keoko" is about a Korean family who lived during WWII and was taken over by the Japanese. They were made to change their names, give up their valuables and forced to live by new rules and some even made to join the Japanese in their fight. The story is told through the eyes of a young girl, Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul. The author accounts the hardships that their family had to endure during this time, including their Uncle having to go into hiding and Tae-yul volunteering as for the Japanese and becoming a kamikaze pilot. You feel for the characters throughout the story, such as when Sun-hee thought she had made a huge mistake and told her Uncle false information that forced him to go into hiding, or when friends and family were beaten.
I like the fact that you get to see the struggle of the Koreans and Japanese from children's point of view. I never realized that the Koreans were forced to give up so much and change their names. I liked how the author did not make all Japanese seem bad, such as when Tomo went out of his way to help Sun-hee and her family by warning her. I also liked how the book was divided into character sections, switching between Sun-hee's point of view and Tae-yul's. It made you understand where each character was coming from and why they said or did what they did.
I did not like the "dryness" of the story. I felt like I was always waiting for a huge climax that never really came. There were several more exciting parts of the story, but nothing that was the pinnacle for me. I was also surprised that they spoke of "satisfying the sexual needs of the Imperial Soldiers." However, if this really happened and the book is meant to give insight of the actual events and hardships of the Koreans, then it is appropriate. Overall, I did like the book, I just felt as though there should have been a little more to it; especially since it was fictional and the story line was invented, which leaves room for excitement where needed. ( )
  KristyPratt | Feb 24, 2015 |
I really liked this book, it basically gave me a learning experience while reading. I didn't know much about World War II and how Japan and Korea were so hostile towards each other. Not only did I get a history lesson, it put the reader in the shoes of two young Korean children who are dealing with the changes put in place by the Japanese. The other thing that grabbed my attention was the love the family had for their heritage and family. The father did anything and everything he can to keep the heritage lingering. The mother once said, " The time will come when you will be free to grow in a place of honor." Even though she stated this to a tree it was to prove their strength and hope for change. ( )
  sceres1 | Feb 23, 2015 |
I had mixed feelings about this book after reading it. I liked that the book was told from dual-perspectives of two Korean siblings because it really gave me a feel for the differing lifestyles for Korean boys and girls. For instance, Sun-hee had to “be quiet and ask questions,” because girls aren’t supposed to “listen to men’s business.” Therefore, because Tae-yul is a boy, he gets the “in” on new information and gets annoyed of Sun-hee always asking him questions.
On the other hand, although I found this book to be unique because I’ve never come across a book told by multiple perspectives before, it also made it more challenging and confusing to read, which I didn’t like. Every few pages would flip between Sun-hee and Tae-yul, so if I accidentally didn’t realize, I would have to go back and re-read the short chapter.
However, one feature that I liked about the historical chapter book was its simplistic writing. The sentences were short and to the point, which reflected the characters. For example, on page 2, Sun-hee said, “Nobody ever told me anything. I always had to find out for myself,” which I felt was interesting how the short sentences almost reflected the minimal information that Sun-hee knew about what went on. She spoke with few words because that’s all she knew, and had to keep to herself most of her life. On the other hand, because I knew nothing about the Korean/Japanese cultures, I didn’t like that I had to reference to the book’s “Korean terms of address” to remember certain words, and even look some up. At times the language was a little convoluted for my liking, but I am still glad that I learned a lot in the process of reading the story. In essence, the message behind this book is that no human being nor thing can change a person’s identity because it is sacred, even if it means changing a name. ( )
  akoches | Feb 23, 2015 |
This historical fiction chapter book chronicles the trials and tribulations of a Korean family in Japanese occupied Korea during World War II. In my opinion, this is a very good book. I feel that the readers of this book are obligated to think about what it is like for people to have their identities taken from them, and to be treated like second class, or worse, citizens. A good example is when the family learned that they would have to take new Japanese names. This may not seem very bad, especially when considering other atrocities that war can bring, but the feelings expressed over this oppressive act gets the reader to really think about it. I also like the author’s use of foreshadowing, especially as a prelude to Tae-yul’s stint as a Kamikaze pilot. A good example of this is when Tae-yul talks about a neighborhood accounting during which the block leader boasted of the Japanese Special Attack Unit known as Kamikazes. Tae-yul’s reaction was, “Pilots! The Special Attack Units are pilots who fly airplanes!” Finally, I like how the story is told from the point of view of a Korean brother and sister, emphasizing how the Korean culture’s hierarchical views of men and women affected their thoughts and actions. One way this is displayed is when Sun-hee is putting away dishes, which she does as slow as possible, in order to hear conversations that only the men, including her brother, were supposed to be a part of. ( )
  jmille113 | Feb 23, 2015 |
I found this book extremely difficult to read. The way the story went back and forth from being told from Sun-hee, and her brother, Tae-yul’s points of view were difficult to follow at first. Also, as Japan came to the Korean schools, all of the students were forced to use their Japanese names, which also added to the confusion of following the story. The message of this novel, and the meaning behind all of it is excellent. It tells the true story of how Japan was controlling Korea during World War II, which was interesting to read about. I enjoyed the adventure and the secrets that Sun-hee was able to hear about, such as her family members becoming corrupt and risking their lives to keep their Korean pride. I found this book was easier to read as time went on, but it took me a very long time to get into the read. The message of this book, to hold strong to your heritage and never gave up, inspired me to keep reading the novel. I enjoyed reading about the determination that not only Sun-hee’s family had, but that the rest of the Korean people had, to keep their culture, regardless of the Japanese control. ( )
  Milina_Moreno | Feb 23, 2015 |
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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.
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(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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