By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
By Paula Yoo
Meet Patti Yoon.
She’s a Korean American, a high school senior, a three-time concertmaster violinist for the Connecticut All-State Orchestra, a non-2300 Club Member (she scored only 2010 on her SATs), a prospective Ivy Leaguer, and an all-around overachiever.
In her final year of high school, Patti is understandably stressed. Taking a slew of Advanced Placement classes and studying hard to ace the SATs the second time around, her life revolves around getting into HYP, or “ HARVARDYALEPRINCETON,” as her parents say.
But after a disastrous All-State Orchestra audition that lands her the assistant concertmaster position, Patti begins to question the point of everything she does. This becomes especially true when she meets Ben Wheeler, also known as the “Cute Trumpet Guy,” a fellow All-State Orchestra member and transfer student at her school. Ben shows Patti that there’s more to life than getting into the right college. He also shows her that there is more to music than just classical music.
“Good Enough” is filled with laughs and heartfelt moments as Patti navigates through her senior year and strives to be good enough for her parents who expect nothing but perfection. Filled with comical lists such as the Top Ten Reasons Why You Have a Bad Audition – one of which is thinking about pimento olives – and How to Make Your Korean Parents Happy (get a perfect score on your SATs, go to Korean church every week, and don’t talk to boys), the book touches on the pressures of being a college-bound teen that many people can relate to.
Although she is somewhat uptight at the beginning of the story, Patti eventually loosens up and relaxes.
Once she starts living for herself and not her parents, Patti realizes that success does not necessarily equate to happiness. She also realizes that she’s not alone in the pressures she feels as her fellow Korean church youth group members – whom she initially sees as rivals – similarly struggle in their final year of high school.
“Good Enough” is not about being perfect. It is about being balanced, which is something that everyone can learn to be.
“Journey of an Apple: From Lake Chelan to Hong Kong”
By David Chui
Urban Press, 2010
Do you ever wonder how your food ended up in your fridge or on your dining room table?
Hong Kong-born and Washington transplant David Chui pondered this same question 10 years ago before traveling to Lake Chelan to learn how an apple grown in central Washington makes its way to a Lunar New Year celebration in Hong Kong.
Following the life cycle of the 2001 Red Delicious crop at the Triple K Ranch, “Journey” shows the step-by-step process that apple growers go through to prepare their produce for consumption. Readers will be amazed at how involved the entire process is and learn new things about the apple-growing business.
From growing fruit specifically for cross pollination to chemical thinning to ensure trees are able to provide sufficient nutrients to all their fruit, readers will learn that there is a lot more to the industry than just planting and watering a tree.
The journey is not finished once the apples are harvested. The apples are then packed and driven to the Port of Tacoma where they are loaded onto a vessel and shipped to Hong Kong. Chui follows these apples and returns to Hong Kong to celebrate the Lunar New Year for the first time since he immigrated to the United States.
Chui illustrates the story with photographs of each step of the process. These photos are bright and colorful and give readers a good sense of how much work goes into the produce they buy.
Chui also discusses how seemingly inconsequential things such as weather, the downturn in the Asian economy, and the different colors of different fruits can have a big impact on the industry.
This book will have you wondering about your produce’s back story and will make you stop and think twice before you bite into an apple, slice it up to put into a pie, or give it to your teacher.
“Your Republic is Calling You”
By Young-Ha Kim, Translated by Chi-Young Kim
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
Family man Gi-yeong makes a living as an importer of foreign films. He lives with his wife and 15-year-old daughter and enjoys Heineken, soccer, and sushi.
After living uneventfully for a decade, Gi-yeong is understandably surprised when he receives a mysterious e-mail telling him that he must return home within 24 hours. Having spent more than two decades in Seoul, he no longer considers Pyongyang, his birthplace, home. But as a North Korean spy, he knows he must obey orders or risk being tracked down and killed by a government he has not heard from in more than 10 years.
“Republic” takes place over the span of a day as Gi-yeong struggles to make his decision. The story shifts from Gi-yeong’s perspective to that of his wife Ma-ri and daughter Hyon-mi, as well as that of others’ they encounter throughout their day. The story also delves into each character’s past and background, so readers gain a better understanding of the their choices and motives.
I really liked this exploration because it makes you realize that while these characters call each other family, friend, or lover, it is clear that they really do not know each other as well as they thought.
You will undoubtedly stop to think about the people in your lives and wonder how well you really know them.
“Republic” will also have you thinking about what you would do if you were in Gi-yeong’s position. Would you abandon your family in the name of duty and national loyalty? Or would you choose to ignore the order just as your government has ignored you in order to preserve the life you have built in your adopted country? ♦
Samantha Pak can be reached at email@example.com.