Recommended Books

Grades 9-12 – Korea

Chinatown (Modern Korean Short Stories)

Chinatown (Modern Korean Short Stories)

Jung-hee Oh

Bilingual (English/Korean); part of the Modern Korean Short Stories Series. Korea was an arduous and painstaking place to live in after the nation’s civil war. Incheon, one of the war’s most famous backdrops, provides the setting for Chinatown, the story of life in one of the ubiquitous shantytown areas that dotted the Korean landscape at the time, and is a painfully real account of what many suffered through. It is also a grim tale of how Koreans, American soldiers and Chinese vendors failed to understand each other on any meaningful level.

The Snowy Road (Modern Korean Short Stories)

The Snowy Road (Modern Korean Short Stories)

Chong-Jun Yi

A poignant, radiant tale of a mother’s ceaseless devotion to her son, The Snowy Road is the story of a family that loses everything due to one son’s abuse of alcohol. This tragedy does not shake the mother’s resolve to continue to work hard for her one remaining son, making his happiness her sole goal in life. The son behaves contemptuously, though, oblivious to his mother’s sacrifice, until the day he learns of her long walk home along a snowy mountain road years before when he left home.
Part of the Modern Korean Short Stories Series.

Our Twisted Hero

Our Twisted Hero

Yi Munyol

When the twelve-year-old narrator of Our Twisted Hero moves to a small town and enrolls in the local school, he’s confident that his big city sophistication will establish him as a natural leader. He is shocked to find his new classmates and teacher under the spell of the class monitor. As the narrator sets out to overthrow the bully, he is threatened, teased–and finally broken.

FREEMAN AWARD Honorable Mention

The Silence of Bones

June Hur

I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak; Ears, but I mustn’t hear; Eyes, but I mustn’t see. 1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman. As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder. But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly. June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.

FREEMAN AWARD Of Note

Almond

Won-Pyung Sohn, Translated by Sandy Joosun Lee

This story is, in short, about a monster meeting another monster. 

One of the monsters is me.

Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother provide him with a safe and content life. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful Post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say “thank you,” and when to laugh.

Then on Christmas Eve—Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday—everything changes. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school, and they develop a surprising bond.

As Yunjae begins to open his life to new people—including a girl at school—something slowly changes inside him. And when Gon suddenly finds his life at risk, Yunjae will have the chance to step outside of every comfort zone he has created to perhaps become the hero he never thought he would be.

FREEMAN AWARD Of Note

Banned Book Club

Kim Hyun Kim, Ryan Estrada, Illustrated by Hyung-Ju Ko

When Kim Hyun Sook started college in 1983 she was ready for her world to open up. After acing her exams and sort-of convincing her traditional mother that it was a good idea for a woman to go to college, she looked forward to soaking up the ideas of Western Literature far from the drudgery she was promised at her family’s restaurant. But literature class would prove to be just the start of a massive turning point, still focused on reading but with life-or-death stakes she never could have imagined.

This was during South Korea’s Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protesters. In this charged political climate, with Molotov cocktails flying and fellow students disappearing for hours and returning with bruises, Hyun Sook sought refuge in the comfort of books. When the handsome young editor of the school newspaper invited her to his reading group, she expected to pop into the cafeteria to talk about Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Scarlet Letter. Instead she found herself hiding in a basement as the youngest member of an underground banned book club. And as Hyun Sook soon discovered, in a totalitarian regime, the delights of discovering great works of illicit literature are quickly overshadowed by fear and violence as the walls close in.

Chaim Potok

While fleeing from their village, a Korean peasant farmer and his wife take in a wounded boy, an act of love that gives birth to an odd, unlikely family

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

This true story of a Korean comfort woman documents how the atrocity of war devastates women’s lives Grass is a powerful antiwar graphic novel, telling the life story of a Korean girl named Okseon Lee who was forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War—a disputed chapter in twentieth-century Asian history. Beginning in Lee’s childhood, Grass shows the lead-up to the war from a child’s vulnerable perspective, detailing how one person experienced the Japanese occupation and the widespread suffering it entailed for ordinary Koreans. Keum Suk Gendry-Kim emphasizes Lee’s strength in overcoming the many forms of adversity she experienced. Grass is painted in a black ink that flows with lavish details of the beautiful fields and farmland of Korea and uses heavy brushwork on the somber interiors of Lee’s memories. The cartoonist Gendry-Kim’s interviews with Lee become an integral part of Grass, forming the heart and architecture of this powerful nonfiction graphic novel and offering a holistic view of how Lee’s wartime suffering changed her. Grass is a landmark graphic novel that makes personal the desperate cost of war and the importance of peace.

The Waiting
FREEMAN AWARD WINNER

The Waiting

Julian Sedgwick, Illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim was an adult when her mother revealed a family secret: She had been separated from her sister during the Korean War. It’s not an uncommon story—the peninsula was split across the 38th parallel, dividing one country into two. As many fled violence in the north, not everyone was able to make it south. Her mother’s story inspired Gendry-Kim to begin interviewing her and other Koreans separated by the war; that research fueled a deeply resonant graphic novel.

The Waiting is the fictional story of Gwija, told by her novelist daughter Jina. When Gwija was 17 years old, after hearing that the Japanese were seizing unmarried girls, her family married her in a hurry to a man she didn’t know. Japan fell, Korea gained its independence, and the couple started a family. But peace didn’t come. The young family of four fled south. On the road, while breastfeeding and changing her daughter, Gwija was separated from her husband and son.

Then seventy years passed. Seventy years of waiting. Gwija is now an elderly woman and Jina can’t stop thinking about the promise she made to help find her brother.

FREEMAN AWARD Of Note

The Forest of Stolen Girls

June Hur

1426, Joseon (Korea). Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest near a gruesome crime scene.

Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared from the same forest that nearly stole his daughters. He travels to their hometown on the island of Jeju to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and collides with her now estranged sister, Maewol—Hwani comes to realize that the answer could lie within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.