Essay Prompts A Step From Heaven

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Explain the significance of the memory that opens the novel. How is the end of the book reflected in its beginning?
  2. What is understood as being "a step from heaven"? What is the irony contained in the title?
  3. What lie does Young Ju tell in second grade? Why does she lie? What is the result of her lie?
  4. Acting as translator gives Young Ju a unique measure of power over her father at the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services. In what ways is Young Ju powerful in her life? In what ways is she powerless?
  5. After the baby bird Harry dies, Joon says, "It never happens the way we want. Never." What does he mean by this statement?
  6. How does the use of Korean words in the novel mirror the events in Young Ju's life? In what way is the reader like Young Ju at the beginning of the novel when many Korean words are introduced?
  7. How is Young Ju's friendship with Amanda different from most close high school friendships?
  8. What actions let us know that Young Ju's Apa is proud of his daughter?
  9. How does Young Ju respond to her father's violent episodes? What do you think drives her to respond differently in the climactic scene when she calls 911?
  10. How much control do people have over their lives in American society today? How much control do teenagers have? How much control should teenagers have?

Snacks

Coca-Cola: "This drink bites the inside of my mouth and throat like swallowing tiny fish bones." (p. 28) Goldfish crackers: "I put one Go-do-feesh in my mouth and bite it slowly. It crunches like sand. A smoky salty taste sits on my tongue. These Go-do-feesh are good to eat." (p. 34)

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.

A Step From Heaven is the first novel by An Na, published in 2001 by Front Street Press. It won the 2002 Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association.[1]

Summary[edit]

At age four, Young Ju moves with her parents from Korea to Southern California. While expecting an easy, blissful life in America, Young Ju sees the stress that the cultural adjustment puts on her family. She struggles with the language barrier in her new school as her parents' relationship begins to strain due to financial issues. During this time, Young Ju's brother Joon Ho is born, and is given more freedom and choices due to his gender. Their father is an alcoholic, who is eventually arrested for DUI and subsequently loses his driver's licence. As Young Ju matures and begins to enjoy friends and school, her parents' marriage continues to dwindle and begins affecting Joon, causing him to withdraw from school and further education. Young Ju eventually intervenes when her father starts beating his wife and herself by, calling the police and having her father arrested. When he is released from jail, he leaves the family, returning to their home country, Korea, without a word. Some time later, when her family is in a better financial position, they move into a better house when, Young Ju is preparing to leave for college, and knows her mother and brother are finally starting to settle into a better life.

References[edit]

  1. ^American Library Association: Michael L. Printz Winners and Honor Books "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-02-13. Retrieved 2011-02-03. . URL accessed 6 July 2009.

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