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Year of Impossible Goodbyes


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About the Author

Sook Nyul Choi was born in Pyongyang, North Korea. As a young refugee during the Korean War, Choi learned to face injustice and cruelty with courage and determination. Choi's novels, which are based upon her own experiences, have enriched the lives of young people all over the world.Choi emigrated to the Unites States to pursue her college education. She graduated from Manhattanville College in 1962. Except for a brief period during which she worked in the business world, she taught in public and parochial schools in New York and Massachusetts for 20 years while raising her two daughters. Sook Nyul Choi is the author of Year of Impossible Goodbyes, a novel about 10-year-old Sookan and her life in Korea during the aftermath of World War II. It has been translated into Korean, French, Italian, and Japanese. It is an ALA Notable Book and has received many other honors as well.Choi also wrote Echoes of the White Giraffe, a sequel to Year of Impossible Goodbyes. Sookan, again the main character, is now 15 and a refugee growing up amidst the sorrows of the Korean War. Her story brings to life the time, place, and intense emotions of a people surrounded by turmoil and tragedy.


In 1945, 10-year-old Sookan's homeland of North Korea is occupied by the Japanese. Left behind while her resistance-fighter father hides in Manchuria and her older brothers toil in Japanese labor camps, Sookan and her remaining family members run a sock factory for the war effort, bolstered only by the dream that the fighting will soon cease. Sookan watches her people--forced to renounce their native ways--become increasingly angry and humiliated. When war's end brings only a new type of domination--from the Russian communists--Sookan and her younger brother must make a harrowing escape across the 38th parallel after their mother has been detained at a Russian checkpoint. Drawn partly from Choi's own experiences, her debut novel is a sensitive and honest portrayal of amazing courage. In clear, graceful prose, she describes a sad period of history that is astonishing in its horror and heart-wrenching in its truth. Readers cannot fail to be uplifted by this account of the triumph of the human spirit in an unjust world. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

Gr 5-9-- Ten-year-old Sookan tells of her Korean family's experiences during the Japanese occupation as World War II ends. The Japanese commit cruel, fear-provoking acts against this proud, hopeful family and against the young girls who worked in a sweatshop making socks for the Japanese army. Relief, hope, and anticipation of the return of male family members after the Japanese defeat is short lived as the Russians occupy the country, bringing their language, their customs, and communism to the village. Equally as insensitive to the pride and possessions of the Koreans, they are as bad as the Japanese. Plans are made for Sookan, her mother, and younger brother to escape to South Korea. However, their guide betrays them, causing the children to be separated from their mother, and the two begin a daring and frightening journey to cross the 38th parallel to safety. Through Sookan, the author shares an incredible story of the love and determination of her family, the threatening circumstances that they endured during occupations by two totalitarian governments, and the risks they took to escape to freedom. Readers will get a double bonus from this book--a good story, well told, and the reaffirmation of our faith in the human spirit against incredible adversities . -- Lydia Champlin, Beachwood City Schools, OH

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