50 Books by Authors of Color: Book 45
Title: When My Name Was Keoko
Author: Linda Sue Park
Set in Korea before World War II, When My Name was Keoko switches back and forth between the perspectives of brother and sister Tae-yul and Sun-hee. During this time period Korea is under Japanese occupations and the Japanese have taken away everything from the Koreans, including their names. Stripped of their family name Kim, and their first names, Tae-yul becomes Kaneyama Nobou and Sun-hee becomes Kaneyama Keoko.
Koreans during this time period are even forced to destroy the beloved national tree of Korea and instead plant Cherry trees, the national tree of Japan. As resources begin to run low and the family begins eating millet instead of barley or rice the unbelievable happens, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and Japan is at war with America. With her uncle in hiding for running a resistance newspaper , Sun-hee and Tae-yul find themselves lost confused and without guidance.
I didn’t intend to read two Linda Sue Park books back to back but my holds from the library just came in that way. When My Name was Keoko provides an amazing perspective from people that no one remembers were involved. We get Keoko’s perspective as a young girl who witnesses young women being taken away, being told that they are going to work in factories in Japan (whereas the harsh reality is that the majority of those women were used as comfort women for the soldiers) as well as the perspective of young Korean Kamikaze pilots. Tragic, beautifully written When My Name Was Keoko is one of those books that makes you want to read more about that period of time.
Overall Rating: 5/5