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Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent
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Kimchi & Calamari

by Rose Kent

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This book was really lovely.

The thing that initially attracted me to the book is the fact that Joseph is Korean. I lived in Korea during my senior year of high school, and LOVED it... and I enjoy any and all positive references to Korean culture, language, food, etc. I loved that he was from Pusan, which is pretty close to where I lived when I was there.

So the premise of the story is essentially: Joseph, a Korean boy, is adopted as a baby by an Italian-American family. He's raised pretty Italian... eating pasta three times a week (in his words)... with the big extended family, and dot, dot, dot. And then his 8th grade English teacher gives his class an assignment to write a 1500-word paper about their ancestry. So he's like, "Uhhh... I'm adopted! I don't know ANYTHING about my Korean heritage!" So he goes on a sort of cultural and familial exploration, aided by his best friend (an internet guru) and a new Korean family who just moved into the area.

I don't know what it's like to be adopted or to be... sandwiched between two very strong cultures (I've just got the one strong culture, myself), but I think the author did a really great job of writing Joseph's story in a way that allowed me to step into his shoes for a little while. It was a very interesting and thought-provoking experience that I'm glad I was able to have! ( )
  saraferrell | Apr 3, 2013 |
A decent read about a kid adopted transnationally from Korea by an Italian family in New Jersey. Kid searches for his ethnic and family identity, etc. I found it interesting because of the subject matter, but there were several subplots that weren't followed through to their conclusion, which was a bit frustrating. Perhaps the author is leaving room for a sequel. Also, both the Italian and the Korean family featured were quite stereotyped. Interesting but not great. ( )
  Marared9 | Feb 5, 2012 |
This is a humorous, touching story about Joseph, a 14-year-old boy, and his journey for self-acceptance and ancestral understanding. When Joseph was just a few days old, he was abandoned and left in a basket in the city of Pusan, Korea. Joseph was subsequently adopted and raised by a traditional Italian New Jersey family. Joseph is forced to confront his heritage when his English teacher assigns an ancestral history paper. Joseph fabricates a fake story about his ancestors, who in reality he knows nothing about. The story centers on Joseph's growing curiosity about his Korean roots, his quest to find answers, and reconciling his Italian-American upbringing with his Korean appearance-- all the while gaining the attention and affection of his crush interest, Kelly. An enjoyable book that adolescents of all backgrounds can relate to. ( )
  DayehSensei | Jul 21, 2011 |
Personal Response:

Kent is a funny, touching writer. Adolescents trying to figure out their own lives will relate to Joseph as he struggles to find who he is and how he fits into the world. Joseph cheats on his essay, but he is honorable enough to come forward with the truth, regardless of the consequences. Joseph’s relationship with Kelly is truthful, as he moves from infatuation to excitement at taking her out to the realization that looks are not everything.

Curricular or Programming Connections:

Students could write their own versions of the Tracing Your Past: A Heritage Essay assignment that Joseph is given, writing about their own families
  hsollom | Aug 9, 2010 |
Reviewed by Randstostipher "tallnlankyrn" Nguyen for TeensReadToo.com

Believing that his fourteenth birthday will be the best one yet, Joseph Calderaro will be amazed at how quickly it turns sour.

It all happens during second period. After turning in his project on flag burning, Joseph thinks the assignment will be over, especially since it is May and June is just around the corner. But before the last ten minutes of class is up, his teacher assigns a 1,500-word essay about ancestors. Sure, it may seem like an easy one to write. Not for Joseph, though.

Joseph may have an Italian last name; he is anything but. His parents adopted him when they went over to Korea, and Joseph only knows the Italian side of him, which you could say isn't the true side of him. Adopted at such a young age, Joseph has no idea who his ancestors are or who his birth mother is.

Joseph doesn't mind eating calamari and cannoli frosting on a chocolate cake. He just gets a little uncomfortable when his father wants him to show off their Italian heritage, since is just isn't his.

His journey on writing his essay isn't an easy start, especially since the only help his father can give him is his parent's stories, and Joseph has heard them all.

With ancestors to discover, a girl to win over, a new student who will take him on a journey to discover his heritage, and parents who aren't much help but still love him, Joseph is in for the ride of his life. One that will help him see that being both Korean and Italian isn't bad at all.

Wonderfully written, KIMCHI & CALAMARI will take readers on an adventure that they will never forget. The novel shows how having two heritages is absolutely wonderful and that what matters the most is what we learn from it, how we enrich our lives with it. KIMCHI & CALAMARI is one novel that I will never forget. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 11, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060837691, Hardcover)

Kimchi and calamari. It sounds like a quirky food fusion of Korean and Italian cuisine, and it's exactly how Joseph Calderaro feels about himself. Why wouldn't an adopted Korean drummer—comic book junkie feel like a combo platter given:

(1) his face in the mirror

(2) his proud Italian family.

And now Joseph has to write an essay about his ancestors for social studies. All he knows is that his birth family shipped his diapered butt on a plane to the USA. End of story. But what he writes leads to a catastrophe messier than a table of shattered dishes—and self-discovery that Joseph never could have imagined.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:16 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Adopted from Korea by Italian parents, fourteen-year-old Joseph Calderaro begins to make important self-discoveries about race and family after his social studies teacher assigns an essay on cultural heritage and tracing the past.

» see all 3 descriptions

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