January 3, 2017
Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung
Chloe Cho and her best friend Shelley are two of the best students in the school. They begin every assignment early, put in extra effort and rock the curve.
But seventh grade is going to be tricky. Yes, for the first time ever they have a Korean teacher. Chloe is used to being one of three people of Korean descent in her small town. Her parents are the other two. And she’s excited to meet her new teacher right up until the teacher hands out her first assignment.
Interview a family member and write down a family story you’ve never heard before.
The problem is that Chloe knows more of Shelley’s family stories than she does her own. Whenever she asks about Korea, her parents shut down. They claim they want to live in the present and not dwell in the past but Chloe is about to lose her cool. She can’t let them blow her grade.
Chloe does finally get a story about an uncle who was in a camp but when she gets her grade the teacher has given her an F. Chloe Cho does not get Fs! Then she talks to the teacher and discover that the story her father told her is straight out of a book. She’s plagiarized and her father tricked her into doing it.
Chloe is really mad and she isn’t going to stop until she has the answers. What she finds out is that she isn’t Korean, but something far more unusual. She is so shocked that she pulls away from Shelley, quits doing her school work and retreats into her room. Who is she if she isn’t the only Korean girl in town?
Yes, yes. I know. I’m not filling you in but you really do need to read this for yourself. Jung does a top-notch job creating a character who starts out sure of herself and her place in the middle school pecking order only to come to question everything that she’s believed her whole life. It is a must read story about self, about identify and about what it is to be a true friend.
I suspect that part of the reason that I’ve latched onto this book are my own writings on race and racism. Throughout the story, Jung insinuates acts of micro-aggression — those phrases and actions that feel racist to the recipient even if the person doing them is unaware of the implications.
A must read for the diverse classroom.