Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness

4.2 13
by Marie G. Lee

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Chan Kim enjoys playing soccer, until his family has to move to a small town where nobody plays the sport. He has a hard time fitting in, and then a tragic accident forces him to face the toughest challenge of all.See more details below


Chan Kim enjoys playing soccer, until his family has to move to a small town where nobody plays the sport. He has a hard time fitting in, and then a tragic accident forces him to face the toughest challenge of all.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Unwillingly transplanted from inner-city Los Angeles to tiny, all-white Iron City, Minn., Chan walks a thin line between the traditional Korean values of his stern Abogee (father) and contemporary middle American mores. His parents, for example, deride sports ("In Korea," says Abogee, "grown men would not waste their time fighting each other over a tiny ball"), but Chan becomes the kicker for the all-important high school football team. Lee, who has previously explored Korean American identity and small-town Minnesota settings in Finding My Voice and If It Hadn't Been for Yoon Jun, is less successful here. She fashions a number of subplots or incidents that are compelling on the surface-a racially motivated locker-room attack on Chan; a romance with a local girl; a tragedy involving Chan's twin sister; the road to the state football championships. But she compartmentalizes these developments: narrator Chan picks up and drops each concern before moving on to the next, with consequent damage to both the story's pacing and its credibility. In the matter of the locker-room attack, for example, it's hard to believe that the blindfolded Chan doesn't immediately guess who the chief culprit is; it's harder still to believe that two weeks go by before his attention returns to the attack. The choppy treatment is all the more disappointing given the many instances where Lee gets her characters' voices just right: they are proof that she can do better.
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

CENGAGE Learning
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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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