A Step from Heaven, by An Na
Four-year-old Young Ju is going to heaven. She’s going to take a plane and live in America, “Mi Gook,” the land where her parents will smile again and stop fighting. Her father won’t be so angry and life will be good. But Young Ju soon learns that America is not heaven. Instead it is a country where her father gets drunker and angrier and meaner. Her mother works two jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Her brother closes himself off. No one talks to each other or understands, and Young Ju must be the bridge between her family and the world.
An Na has created a wonderful character who vividly illustrates the challenges immigrants must face as they acculturate to the new world they have chosen. We see Young Ju as she tries to understand the Americans around her. An Na writes as Young Ju would hear (“Ah ri cas, ca mo ve he,” for “Alright class, come over here”) and animates the pain Young Ju feels as her father punishes her for being too American. Each vignette reveals the layers of Young Ju’s life as she grows and learns and navigates her way through the world. Each revealed layer brings the reader closer to Young Ju and the triumphant woman she can become when she finally finds the voice that will free her family from the vicious cycle they are living.
A Step from Heaven won the 2002 Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature.
Check the WRL catalog for A Step from Heaven.