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A Step From Heaven Paperback – January 13, 2003


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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 16 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 11
  • Series: Now in Speak!
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Speak; Reprint edition (January 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142500275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142500279
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her mesmerizing first novel, Na traces the life of Korean-born Young Ju from the age of four through her teenage years, wrapping up her story just a few weeks before she leaves for college. The journey Na chronicles, in Young's graceful and resonant voice, is an acculturation process that is at times wrenching, at times triumphant and consistently absorbing. Told almost like a memoir, the narrative unfolds through jewel-like moments carefully strung together.As the book opens, Young's parents are preparing to move from Korea to "Mi Gook," America, where the residents all "live in big houses." Soaring through the sky on her first airplane ride, the child believes she is on her way to heaven, where she hopes to meet up with her deceased grandfather and eventually be reunited with her beloved grandmother, who has stayed behind. After the family's arrival, Young's American uncle dispels the notion that the United States is heaven, yet adds, "Let us say it is a step from heaven." It doesn't take the girl or her parents very long to realize how steep this step is.From her first sip of Coca-Cola, which "bites the inside of my mouth and throat like swallowing tiny fish bones," Young's new life catches her in a tug-of-war between two distinct cultures. When her brother is born, her father announces "Someday my son will make me proud," then disdainfully dismisses Young's assertion that she might grow up to be president ("You are a girl"). Although she learns English in school, Young must speak only Korean at home and is discouraged from spending time with the classmate who is her sole friend. Her father, a disillusioned, broken man, becomes increasingly physically and emotionally abusive to his children and wife as he descends further into alcoholism. In fluid, lyrical language, Na convincingly conveys the growing maturity of her perceptive narrator who initially (and seamlessly) laces her tale with Korean words, their meaning evident from the context. And by its conclusion, readers can see a strong, admirable young woman with a future full of hope. Equally bright are the prospects of this author; readers will eagerly await her next step. Ages 12-up.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up-An Na's 2002 Printz winning novel (Front St., 2001) is brought to full effect in this reading by Jina Oh. Young Ju emigrates from Korea with her parents when she is four. A few months later, they live in a shabby apartment in Southern California, their family expanded to include a newborn baby boy. The parents work long hours at multiple jobs, and Young Ju struggles first to understand what is going on in school and then to be permitted to participate in typically American schoolgirl activities. The pressures of immigration, language difficulties, and oppositional cultural expectations lead Young Ju's father to become a bitter and often drunk man, physically abusive of his wife and, eventually, his daughter. The stresses of the disintegrating family work on each of its members, sending Young Ju's mother into a religious foray and her brother into middle school truancy. By the time Young Ju is ready to leave for college, her father has returned to Korea and her mother has been able to establish the family in their own American home. Each of the chapters in this emotionally succinct novel might be read as a short story, although the plot-the acclimation of one young girl to a new culture and to her own family-is steady and at times suspenseful. Young Ju's narrative voice matures as she does: in early childhood, she is unclear about identity and place, later she becomes impatient with the limitations placed on her by both culture and her own understanding of what is needed, and at last she matures to a young woman who can appreciate the fact that individuals must admit to their strengths and weaknesses in order to enjoy life's possibilities. The language is rich, studded with Korean words made intelligible both by context and the reader's easy pronunciation. Tunes are sung gently and well, and there is dramatic differentiation made among the cast of characters, making this audio version an enrichment of an already superb text.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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Customer Reviews

The voice An Na uses to tell her story is fascinating.
cammykitty
The book depicts the story of one Korean immigrant and her family, but all immigrants will not live these same experiences.
Christine
The struggles that Young Ju and her family undergo really struck a cord with me.
A. Stender

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By cammykitty on January 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book comes highly recommended. It received the Printz award for young adult literature, and is called a must-read by my writing instructor. On reading it, I can see why. On the surface, the book is about a child-immigrant's experience adapting to life in the United States. It is written more in the style of an adult novel than a YA novel. An Na rightly expects her readers to be able to handle more than a lot of books expect them too.
The voice An Na uses to tell her story is fascinating. It begins with Young Ju as a four-year old who speaks no English. Instead of using normal names for things like "toilet paper", she describes them with amazing childlike and unusual words. When she is in America, English dialogue is written how she hears it, not how it is spelled. Wonderful way to show how confusing a new language is. This book is full of touch and smell, as well as sight. She uses vivid descriptions --For just one example, the touch of her mother's rough hands feel like the lick of a cat's tongue.
The book covers Young Ju's life from Age 4 to college age, and the voice matures with her, from the child who still believes magical things, like planes fly to heaven, to a woman who is becoming independent and American despite her's fathers wish to keep her Korean-thinking and subservient.
This book is truly rich with experience. Nothing is flat. She uses many contrasts. We see her father reading the Korean newspaper avidly and then being stumped completely by a few immigration forms. And it goes on with wonderful details like that.
And as for her father, his portrayal is superb. He is a mean-spirited violent alcoholic. Yet he is their father, and at times there are very good times. At times, he worked for the family very hard. We know how he is struggling with a new culture.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Volkert Volkersz on October 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When I heard author An Na speak at a school librarian's convention in Portland, Oregon, in October, 2002, I knew I had to read this book. What she said struck a chord with me, an immigrant who came to this country when I was 3 years old from Holland in 1953. I am also very close to a young man who was adopted from Korea when he was 2 years old.
While this powerful story is about a Korean girl adapting to her new life in America, many of the struggles she faces are similar to those that I went through, even though I was a white kid from an earlier generation.
I plan to share this emotionally gripping story with my adopted Korean friend, as I believe he will find some things to relate to as well.
Don't be put off by the awkward, slow start. That's part of the story's development. Highly recommended.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "alexmat" on May 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This virtually flawless book traces the steps of Yung Ju, a Korean girl who moves to America (or as she clalls it, "Mi Gook" )as a young child. She thinks she is going to heaven because of all the great things she's heard about it. She soon learns that it is not. Her family struggles to find a place to live, and to learn English. Yung Ju tries her best to do good in school. She makes friends with a girl, only to be forbidden from seeing her. It unfolds into haunting grace as Yung Ju grows and matures into a young woman and her father becomes more and more abusive and becoming an ever closer to becoming an alcoholic and her brother becomes a rebel and ditches school. Strangely graceful yet real and painful, A Step From Heaven dances with pain across the stage with exquisite voice.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A Step From Heaven, by An Na, is a great book and an affecting novel. In the book, the main character, Young Ju, moves from Korea to America. She must face all obstacles to obtain a normal, American life. Her father is a very harsh father who makes sexist comments, and strikes her mother, her brother, and her. She learns to be a good student and very good at speaking and communicating in English. Her father only gets worse as she gets older. And only on good days he is a little nice. He was rubbing on her little brother Joon, when she realized her dad was no good for anybody. Young Ju was forbidden to see her best friend Amanda because her father thought she was bad news and way to American, so she snuck out of her house and said she was going out to study but her father saw her. When she got home he started cursing at her and hitting her, when her mother defended her, her father started pounding on her mother. It got really bad and she finally realized her had to call the police or her father was going to kill her mother. Fortunately, she had things better in the end and starts a new life. I strongly recommend this novel.
I recommend this novel because it gives you a large aspect of culture shock. The book gives you a new taste of a new life style. In the book, the main character, Young Ju and her family have a large case of culture shock as well. Like when she first tastes coke, and thinks its like tacks rushing down your throat. Or like when her parents fist heard English, they couldn't believe their ears! They thought everyone was talking crazy or that they were upset. Another reason I recommend this book is that it is not only and interesting true story, but it teaches you a lot. It teaches you what is precious and sweet in your life.
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