by Linda Sue Park


Linda Sue Park's When My Name Was Keoko​ is told from the dual perspectives of Kim Sun-hee (renamed Kaneyama Keoko) and her older brother Kim Tae-yul (renamed Kaneyama Nobuo) during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1940s. The pair have grown up speaking and writing Japanese; the history of their own culture and language is forbidden to be taught in schools. Their only connection with their Korean heritage is in their parents' illegally squirreled away heirlooms and their uncle's funny folktales. When My Name Was Keoko is both a fascinating history lesson and the story of how a fictional family survived an imperialist attempt to erase their very identities.

This is the kind of book I look for when I'm in the mood to read historical fiction. It educates without being condescending, makes me root for its characters even as I fear for them, and contains no love story which wrests attention away from the plot that drew me to the book in the first place. The only love story is one of love for Korea and all it could be if only given a chance.

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