When she is five, Young Ju Park and her family move from
Korea to California. During the flight, they climb so far into the sky she
concludes they are on their way to Heaven, that Heaven must be in America.
Heaven is also where her grandfather is. When she learns the distinction, she
is so disappointed she wants to go home to her grandmother. Trying to console
his niece, Uncle Tim suggests that maybe America can be “a step from Heaven.”
Life in America, however, presents problems for Young Ju’s family. Her father
becomes depressed, angry, and violent. Jobs are scarce and money is even
scarcer. When her brother is born, Young Ju experiences firsthand her father’s
sexism as he confers favored status upon the boy who will continue to carry the
Park name. In a wrenching climactic scene, her father beats her mother so
severely that Young Ju calls the police. Soon afterward, her father goes away
and the family begins to heal.
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