From Publishers Weekly
In this charming tale of family, community and the struggle for understanding, young Korean immigrant David Kim learns to acculturate to a new American life. After five years on their own in Seoul, 12-year-old David, his big sister and mother reunite with his father in Oakbridge, N.J. Now known as Harry, David's father has a gift shop in a rundown strip mall called Peddlers Town. Though told largely by a grown-up David, some chapters switch to a third-person voice to examine other characters, including members of the Kim family and the other store owners at Peddler's Town (including an American with a cross-dressing son and a down-on-his-luck detective). Woo eschews immigrant clichés to focus on complicated familial relationships and surprising, sympathetic characters; alternating between humor and melancholy, Woo's text strikes a true chord while drawing readers into its strange, strip-mall world. (Apr.)
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Newly arrived in the States from Korea in the early 1980s, Dae Joon, 12, does not know his dad and does not want to. Father left five years ago to make a home for his family in New Jersey. Now Dae Joon (“David” in America) and his older sister must adapt to a new world, working after school in Dad’s Asian gift store in the shabby Peddlers Town mall, attending ESL classes with their embarrassing parents, and discovering secrets and betrayal. Told in sharp, immediate vignettes, mostly from the boy’s viewpoint, this debut novel captures the contemporary immigration struggle, but it is also an elemental family drama of fury and tenderness, affecting all the characters. Dae Joon’s mother cannot speak the language and remains angry that her husband left her behind so long. But what about Dae Joon’s loneliness? Woo also shows the ironic satisfactions that come with speaking a second language: the joy of insulting locals to their faces without their understanding. A great addition to the titles listed in Booklist’s “Core Collection: The New Immigration Story” (August 2005). --Hazel Rochman