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‘Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.’ – Groucho Marx

A Step from Heaven

by An Na

When Young Ju’s family leave Korea to live in America they think all their dreams will come true, but customs and language are so different that Young Ju must defy tradition in order to make a new life.

‘It is Amanda’s first party. A beach birthday party. With boys. I can’t go. Uhmma and Apa do not like it that my best friend is an American, a girl who might influence me in the wrong ways. Fast American ways. Supposedly, American girls do not study, they are boy-crazy, and they do not think of anyone but themselves. Uhmma and Apa do not want me to end up like them.’

When Young Ju’s parents prepare to leave Korea to live in America, they believe they will find a place where everyone can make lots of money even if they didn’t go to an important school; where all the uhmmas are pretty like dolls, and live in big houses. Little Young Ju thinks they are on their way to heaven.

But Young Ju and her family struggle in their new world, where language and customs are so different, and no amount of hard work brings them closer to their dream. As Young Ju grows up she finds herself more and more alone in a family divided by cultural values and a painful sense of failure. Until, as a young woman, she is forced to make the hardest choice of all: to break family tradition and call for the help that will save them.

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