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Necessary Roughness

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Overview

Chan Kim has never felt like an outsider in his life. That is, not until his family moves from L.A. to a tiny town in Minnesota—Land of 10,000 Lakes—and probably 10,000 hicks,too. The Kims are the only Asian family in town, and when Chan and his twin sister, Young, attend high school, it's a blond-haired, blue-eyed whiteout.

Chan throws himself into the only game in town—football—and the necessary roughness required to make a player. On the field it means "justifiable violence,"...

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Necessary Roughness

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Overview

Chan Kim has never felt like an outsider in his life. That is, not until his family moves from L.A. to a tiny town in Minnesota—Land of 10,000 Lakes—and probably 10,000 hicks,too. The Kims are the only Asian family in town, and when Chan and his twin sister, Young, attend high school, it's a blond-haired, blue-eyed whiteout.

Chan throws himself into the only game in town—football—and the necessary roughness required to make a player. On the field it means "justifiable violence," but as Chan is about to discover, off the field it's a whole different ballgame . . .Chan Jung Kim has always been popular. But that was when he lived in L.A. and was the star of his soccer team. Now his family's moved—to a tiny town in Minnesota, where football's the name of the game and nobody has ever seen an Asian American family before. Desperate to fit in, Chan throws himself into the game—but he feels like an outsider. For the first time in his life, he finds himself thinking about what it really means to be Korean—and what is really important. By turns gripping, painful, funny, and illuminating, Necessary Roughness introduces a major new talent and a fresh young voice to the Harper list.

1997 Best Books for the Teen Age (NY Public Library)
1998 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)

Author Biography: MARIE G. LEE is a second-generation Korean American who was born and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota. Her books include If It Hadn't Been for Yoon Jun, Necessary Roughness, and Night of the Chupacabras. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and several anthologies. She has appeared on PBS's"Asian American" and is a founder of the Asian American Writer's Workshop.

Sixteen-year-old Korean American Chan moves from Los Angeles to a small town in Minnesota, where he must cope not only with racism on the football team but also with the tensions in his relationship with his strict father.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An Asian American teenager finds himself an outsider when he moves from Los Angeles to an all-white Minnesota town and immerses himself in grueling high school football. Ages 12-up. Feb.
The ALAN Review - Alan McLeod
Moving from Los Angeles to a small town in northern Minnesota at the start of the twins' junior year in high school is a challenging experience for the Kim family. To the twins, Chan and his sister Young, everything seems different and making friends difficult. Chan takes his soccer skills to the football team, and Young plays her flute in the band. They make friends, yet Chan has to deal not only with necessary roughness on and off the field but also with family tragedy. In the process he ponders his Korean roots and family values. Adolescent readers will find the story moving, entertaining, and painful. They will gain some modest insight into an Asian-American family and see that, no matter the culture, there are more similarities than differences in relationships. Lee's storytelling is compelling.
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
While high school is a time when most adolescents are at odds with their parents, for Chan and his twin sister, Young, it is most difficult. Trying to be true to the family's Korean roots, their father moves the family from L.A. to rural Minnesota to assist his brother. Everyone goes through a variety of upheavals and adaptations, at home, in school, in the clash of cultures within the community, numerous family conflicts, and personal tragedy. Lee deftly weaves a realistic portrayal of this Korean family's joys and sorrows, using a small Minnesota town and its high school football team as a backdrop. This book will appeal to both boys and girls with its realistic events, quick action and believable characters.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Popular Chan has grown up in an Asian-American community and has all kinds of friends because of his soccer gifts. Moved to Minnesota, Chan faces a hostile world where nobody's ever seen an Asian-American family, or played soccer, or had to work in the family business. His twin sister seems the only one who understands when tension increases as he opposes his father's traditional Korean standards and the prejudice of members of his football team. This is an incredibly layered novel that manages to look at the complexities of coming of age, and moves along at a fast clip with moods that vary from funny to painful.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10Chan and his sister Young move from Los Angeles to a small town in Minnesota with their parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Korea when the twins were small. Entering their junior year of high school, the siblings face numerous obstacles. They are the only Asians in town, and the fact that their mother and father practice many of the old-world Korean customs that clash with Chan and Young's more Americanized desires is paramount. Chan, who tells the story, finds refuge on the high-school football team, his practicing and playing experiences making up a large part of the book. Both teens face bigotry and prejudice, but begin to adjust to the new school and town. They confide in one another and try to figure out how to deal with their rigid father. When Young is killed in a car accident, Chan is shocked, as readers will be. After an intense but very brief period of grief, he is able to move on with his life and even manages to become closer to his father. Lee's tight characterizations lift this novel above the ordinary, and the football action will appeal to sports' fans.Tom S. Hurlburt, La Crosse Public Library, WI
Kirkus Reviews
Football is the central metaphor for how a Korean family confronts life, death, and assimilation in this gritty and moving novel by Lee (Saying Goodbye, 1994, etc.).

Leaving behind a successful grocery store in Los Angeles, the Kims move to Minnesota to rescue the store owned by the father's no-good, drug-dealing brother, Bong. Readers will identify the laconic and pained narrator, Chan, and his twin sister, Young, as different from each other as their former city's cultural diversity is from the relative homogeneity of their new small town. The family encounters prejudice from hostile provincials, as well as a welcome from their open-hearted landlady, Mrs. Knutson. Lee creates a tangible sense of what it means to work hard: The Kims struggle to make their new store succeed, going without furniture and embracing Minnesota hotdish. Tragedy comes when Young is killed in a car accident; reeling from the loss, Chan confronts the xenophobic bullies on the football team and reaches an understanding with his old-world father. Both points could have been reached without the death of Young, which seems a forced, unnecessary, and easy plot development. Lee's talent for dramatically depicting the pain and tragedy in living, for showing that every day is a battle, is subordinated by the facile scenes surrounding Young's death. Yet even if the lessons are not as precisely realized as those in Lee's previous books, this is still a strong and intelligent novel.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064471695
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 622,891
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Marie G. Lee is a second-generation Korean American who was born and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota. Her books include If It Hadn't Been for Yoon Jun, Necessary Roughness, and Night of the Chupacabras. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and several anthologies. She has appeared on PBS's "Asian American" and is a founder of the Asian American Writer's Workshop.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Okay, I shouldn't have done it. They say hindsight is twenty-twenty; my visibility is now unlimited. I shouldn't have even dreamed of saying anything about the Buddha. But what can I say except that, at the time, it seemed a perfectly logical thing to do?

The Buddha statue in question was the size of a Border collie and about three times as heavy. Pure stone, very Las Vegas in gold-leaf paint. It always sat in the left comer of our living room, its smile semi-hidden behind the potted palm.

No one ever paid any attention to it. We didn't offer it food like the Parks did with theirs. It just sat there. So when my mother said we needed to leave things behind for the big move, I suggested that.

Naturally. We say grace before meals, which means we're Christians, which means we have no need for a Budda statue--right? And the Parks certainly would have appreciated the donation, two Buddhas being better than one and all that.

But as usual, after I said it I wished I hadn't. I still don't know exactly why that lump of stone was so important, but Abogee boiled over, as if I'd suggested we leave my sister behind or something. And I knew he was mad, not because he ranted and raved or whopped me on my heinie with a yardstick--like he used to when I was little--but because he refused to talk to me, or even look at me, the whole drive to Minnesota.

When my abogee gets mad, he either yells or gives you the silent treatment, depending on his mood. I almost prefer the yelling because eventually it blows over. It's his silence that really cuts, the way a piece of paper can slice your finger open.

But this time Ididn't let him get to me. I was mad too, and we kind of canceled each other out.

I couldn't believe it when Abogee told us we were leaving L.A. I think the first words out of my mouth were "But we can't. I haven't finished high school yet!"

0-Ma (Young and I call her by the Korean word for mom, while Abogee makes us call him Abogee--father) made me go outside, which is rare for her. I didn't stop to think that she was probably upset too. I mean, she was leaving all her friends, her church, and Kim's Green Extravaganza, our store.

I felt even worse when Young didn't complain, even though a week ago she'd found out that--after about a kajillion auditions--she'd won a spot in the L.A. Young (no relation) People's Orchestra.

She just nodded when she heard the news, which made Abogee say to me, "Why can't you be more obedient like your sister?"

It always boils down to this: I'm the evil twin and Young is the good one.

Last night through the wall I heard Abogee tell 0-Ma that if we were in Korea, I would never talk back to him like I do. So how does he know? How can he predict what I'd be like?

I would say that we're an almost perfect family, except for the one small fact that Abogee and I could start World War III all by ourselves. The way Abogee talks, you'd think he had me mixed up with some other son, One who gets all A's. One who knows what his abogee wants before he says anything. One who snaps to attention and goes "Yessir!" at everything his abogee says.

And as for me, my life is defined by the perpetual fear of pissing him off. I never mean to, like I said, but it's like walking through a minefield. No matter how much you tiptoe around, sooner or later--boom!--you're going to get it.

So there we were, in a clanky station wagon, the Buddha statue weighing down the rear, heading toward Minnesota. Toward certain doom.

Chapter Two


According to our espionage reports, it was Abogee's brother who got us into this mess. Even though Young and I aren't allowed in on family affairs, we manage to piece things together, especially since the walls that separate the rooms in our house are as thin as rice crackers.

Let me back up to give you a little history. Abogee and O-Ma came to America when Young and I were three. Abogee had been a chemist, so he wasn't too thrilled with O-Ma's idea of opening a grocery--even though his Ph.D. friends Mr. Park and Mr. Lee also had stores. But when he couldn't find a position in chemistry, he went along with O-Ma's idea, grumbling all the way.

O-Ma named our store Kim's Green Extravaganza. We sold all sorts of veggies and fruits and went mental about keeping them extra fresh. The moment something got even a little soft or had one tiny little bruise, we either gave it away to friends or took it home. To this day I'm haunted by the spongy taste of overripe apples.

The other thing about the store was that we sold stuff our customers needed: soup-for-one, tiny cans of cat food, cigarettes, fat-free cookies. O-Ma even went so far as to ask for suggestions. Abogee complained that people would think we didn't know how to run a business. But the stuff O-Ma ordered from people's suggestions almost always became regular sellers.

I guess we were doing pretty well, because Abogee's mom and his brother, Bong, eventually came from Korea to live with us.

At first I wasn't too thrilled to be sharing the house with two strangers, but Grandma, Halmoni, grew on me. She padded around in her stocking feet, and when I came home from school, I could hear her singing wafting through the open windows . . .

Necessary Roughness. Copyright © by Marie Lee. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2004

    Review of Nessecarry Roughness

    I liked this book because it is a very interesting book. Since I like and play sports, I can relate to how it feels to love a sport. Also, I can relate to how it feels to not be able to play sports because of your other issues. I personally don't like hockey because I can't skate, but I like rough sports such as football and feels hard when something you cherish gets taken away from you. That's why I like this book because it shows that you can survive when you can't do the things that you want.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Really Good!!!!

    This book was really cool! It was a really cool story, I liked it a lot!!!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    I thought this book was great. It was like crack (not that i know what it is like). I couldn't put it down and i just had to keep reading it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2006

    i liked it a lot

    I recomdmend it to any one how hates reading and everything but loves sports. It's the best book i've ever read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2004

    Horrible

    Horrible thats all I can say,the book is written from an extremely biased point of view that Asians are superiour and only asians have problems,if you buy this do you yourself a favor and never buy another book again.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2002

    4 stars

    I give this book a 4 star rating. the book is on a korean boy who moves from L.A.ro Minesota. He trys all he can to fit in and be like everyone else but it is hard for the only korean family in the town. Chan was a great soccer player and the new town doesnt have any league for soccer. so he trys out for the football teamand makes varsity. chan is the new star of the town because of his good ablillity to play foodball. chan meets a girl and starts dating her. his life in the new town has gotten beter.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2001

    Fast Paced Book! Good Book Under my standards

    i think this is a very good book, for me being a teenager, who hates reading, i love reading this for fun, not for school

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2001

    AMAZING!!!

    This book is about a young teenage boy and his twin sister trying to find themselves in new circumstances. At first I thought the book was going to be a funny sports book (it certainly has its hilarious moments) but it also covered serious issues like RACISM and I agree w/the other reviewer about the SUSPENSE and the SURPRISES. I don't like to read a lot of books, but this one took me for a ride. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Don't give anythign away!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2001

    i give it a 3 star award

    I think that this book really deserved this three star rating because of the following reasons.... The book doesn¿t start out with a good introduction. It started out with a setting of a house and these people moving to a different state. I think that the author could have been a little more interesting by telling more about the sports part of the book. My personal opinion is more for the action description of the book. The books main characters are people from a different country. And when the guy moves from one American school to another in Minnesota he is sad because he has to leave his friends and the soccer team at his old school. And then he has to move to another school in Minnesota that doesn't have a soccer team. And so then he has to go out for another sport. Which he chooses football, and he has to adjust from soccer to football. And the kids¿ dad has his own opinion of football. An when he has to be at a football dinner with his father he has a feeling that he might just be say some of his 'antifootball' sayings. Like 'Football is so popular in this country because it gives people an excuse to drink beer', and another is, 'In Korea, grown men would not waste their time fighting over a tiny ball.' And to find out the others your going to have to read the book!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2001

    Necessary Roughness Review

    Necessary Roughness, by Marie G. Lee, is an excellent book. On a scale of 1-10 it honestly deserves a ten. The story is about a young Korean teenager named Chan who moves from L.A. to Minnesota and, in order to fit in, he has to go through the necessary roughness. Chan's family is the only Korean family in his new town and they don't fit in. Ironically not only did necessary roughness pertain to Chan on the football field (like the reader would assume), but at home with his family and when he's around his peers as well. Chan is having problems with his father and he must overcome the hatred and problems at the same time. Necessary roughness for Chan is basically the necessary hardships he has to overcome to fit in. What I enjoy most about Necessary Roughness is Chan's will and determination to overcome the obstacles, pitfalls, and stumbling blocks that prevent him from moving forward. Once Chan overcomes all these hardships the reward of fitting in is worth the fight.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2000

    Surprises, suspense, tenderness

    It's been a long time since I've read a novel that SURPRISED me, that has SUSPENSE. I won't get into it too much here--read it for yourself! Not only a good story, a wonderful window into the Asian-American experience...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 1999

    A Football Star

    In the book Necessary Roughness there is a boy named Chan Jung Kim and he has a twin sister named Young. Chan lives in L.A. and he is very popular and he is a soccer star on his soccer team. One day Chan and his family had to move to a small town called Minnesota. In Minnesota football is the most popular sport and if you are in football you have an excuse to drink beer. Chan and his sister went to a school named Iron River and Chan met a guy. The guy asked Chan to go out for football because their kicker is injuried from a far crash. So Chan joined football and his father always says anyone can build muscle, but builing a brain is more difficult. Korean don't waste their time on fighting each other over a tiny ball.

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