Finding Junie Kim

English & Korean

MG & Up

Korean War

Family History

Korean-American Experience




Own Voices





CW: Violent death of a pregnant woman

Ellen Oh

Cover Art: Alex Cho


I’ll be real with you, I didn’t expect this book to rip my heart out in the way that it did. I was really looking forward to reading this, because it addresses the heavy theme of ongoing racism and bullying along with mental health and medication use. Junie feels defeated, and like fighting back is useless. All of us involved in activism and community engagement can probably relate to feeling like nothing we do will make a difference (I know I’ve felt this way before) so there’s no point. Racist graffiti is found in Junie’s school, and she begins to learn about her family’s history during the Korean War, before her grandparents immigrated to America. All of these experiences culminate in Junie recognizing the need for therapy, to treasure the time spent with family learning about their lived experiences, and how she can find her voice. Because everything might not be useless and static after all…

The book itself toggles between Junie’s narration and her grandparents memories of their childhoods during the war. A specific part of Junie’s grandmother’s story is based on author Ellen Oh’s mother, bringing an even more personal note to the book. There’s no way to accurately describe how phenomenal this book is, especially not giving spoilers! Suffice it to say that I stayed up late two nights in a row to finish it, willing the tears that filled my eyes not to fall. Finding Junie Kim is a beautiful balance of history, personal narrative, and prescient commentary on current politics & racism.

This book was kindly sent by Harper, but all opinions are my own.

Ellen Oh

Ellen Oh is a former adjunct college instructor and lawyer with an insatiable curiosity for ancient Asian history. She loves martial arts films, K-pop, K-dramas, and cooking shows, and is a rabid fan of the Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra series. Ellen is the co-founder of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children’s literature. Originally from New York City, Ellen lives in Potomac, Maryland, with her husband and three children and has yet to satisfy her quest for a decent bagel.

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