A Step from Heaven
Front Street Books, 2001.
America, the land A Step From Heaven, is where
little Young Ju and her family move in order to make
a better life for themselves. America is where "everyone
can make lots of money even if they did not go to
an important school" and where people "live
in big houses." Their journey starts out hopeful
but America does not prove to be the land of dreams
for everyone in her family.
Author An Na shows us early on how Young Jus
father takes out his frustrations on his family, especially
by beating his wife. Eventually, he moves back to
Korea while Young Ju, her younger brother, and mother
decide to stay. I felt a sense of community shame
when I read about the beatings. How could she reveal
something like this about her family? What if other
people think all Korean men beat their wives? But
then I remembered that this was a work of fiction
based, perhaps, on real life experience. Regardless,
Young Jus father is not painted as an evil man,
but someonA Step from Heavene who has good qualities too. It is true
that some Korean men do beat their wives. It is also
true that not everyone stays in America.
Eventually, Young Jus hard-working mother buys
a nice home for the family. A dream comes true for
them. Young Ju is the stereotypical Asian honor student.
Her younger brother, though, is the artistic rebel
working at Kinkos, perhaps fulfilling another
stereotype. These stereotypes didnt bother me,
because they were not the focus of the book and because
An Na does not limit her characterizations to them.
An Nas use of English is poetic when showing
us Young Jus voices, from a little girl growing
up in a foreign land to a young woman getting ready
for college. Although the book was written for the
young reader, I recommend this to anyone interested
in reading a good involving book.