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Finding My Voice, by Myung-Ok Lee, Marie.

May 8, 2020

Finding My VoiceFinding My Voice, by Marie Myung-Ok Lee.   Harper, reissue 2020. First published 2001.

Reissue forthcoming

3 stars


A young adult novel by and about a Korean woman describing in a year in a high school in small town Minnesota.

Marie Myung-Ok Lee (1956-   ) was born of Korean immigrants and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota. Her degree is from Brown University.  She has worked and published widely about the migrant experience.  Her books include several written explicitly for young adults. Her articles have appeared in major journals such as The New York Times, the Guardian and Slate.  She teaches at Columbia. This is her first novel, originally published in the 1990s.

In this book, Ellen, known as Myung-OK by her immigrant parents, tells of her senior year in high school.  Despite her overall successes in making friends, dating, and performing well in class, she is plagued by the racism and ridicule of her classmates and teachers.  Additionally, her typical immigrant parents are very restrictive and pressure her to do as well as her sister academically.

Although titled Finding My Voice, I found this to be a relatively simple story of how one young woman succeeded, despite those who belittled her, and lived up to her parents high expectations.  Despite the title, she lives up to parental demands rather than finding a unique path for herself. There is little complex or unique in her story.

I believe that those who will like this book best are young people of color who are themselves facing the challenges of high school.


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