Finding My Voice

Finding My Voice

by Marie G. Lee

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440218968
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 08/01/1994
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 4.21(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range: 10 - 12 Years

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Moooo!" it is still dark when I reach to shut off the Holstein-shaped alarm clock that my best friend, Jessie, gave me for my sixteenth birthday. To shut it off, you have to pull down on the cow's enormous plastic udder. Mom wanted to throw it out. I told her it was just humor, Jessie-style.

I step into the steamy shower and let the warmth coax me awake. I shampoo, shave my legs, and let the conditioner sit in my hair for exactly five minutes, just as it says on the bottle. After toweling off, I put on deodorant, foot powder, perfume, and then begin applying wine-colored eyeliner under my lashes.

Do boys have to go through all this trouble day in and day out? How about Tomper Sandel, the football player who appears to be naturally cute with his shaggy blond hair and cleft chin -- does he worry about how he smells?

I put on extra eye shadow in a semicircle around my top eyelid. According to Glamour magazine, this will give Oriental eyes a look of depth. I've always known that I don't have the neat crease at the top of my lid -- like my friends do -- that tells you exactly where the eye shadow should stop. So every day I have to paint in that crease, but I don't think I'm fooling anybody.

"Hurry up, Ellen," Mom calls from downstairs. I throw on my new Ocean Pacific T-shirt and jeans and run down.

Mom is standing in the kitchen, quietly spreading peanut butter on whole-wheat bread. She turns to look at me, and her eyebrows dip into a slight frown.

"Is that what you're wearing to school?"

"Yes, Mom," I say. We go through this scene every year.

"What about all those good clothes we bought inMinneapolis?"

"Those dresses are great, " I say. "But no one wears a dress on the first clay of school."

"Oh," Mom says, as if she's not convinced. She turns to finish packing my lunch. As usual, Father has already left for the hospital so he can get an early start on patients with morningempty, surgery-ready stomachs.

I grab the Cheerios and milk, and eat while looking over my schedule one more time. This year, I won't have Jessie in a single class. She took typing and creative foods so that she can have more free time. In the meantime, I'll be sweating out calculus and trying to tack gymnastics onto my already-stuffed schedule. My parents say I have to take all the hard classes so I can get into Harvard like my sister, Michelle.

"Here's your lunch," Mom says, handing me a brown paper bag. I open it and find a small container filled with soft white ovals in sugary liquid.

"What is this?" I grimace, holding the tiny container aloft.

"Litchi nuts," Mom answers. "Remember? You love them."

"Not for lunch," I say, a little too vehemently. The truth is, I don't want people seeing those foreign-looking nuts and asking what they are.

Then I remember that every day Mom packs Father's lunch, then my lunch, while I'm up in the bathroom doing my deodorant-perfume-powder dance.

"Well, thanks, though, Mom," I say. "Could I please have a Hershey's bar from now on?"

Mom smiles. She is so thin and small in her gown and robe. I throw my lunch in my knapsack and kiss her quickly "Goodbye, Myong-Ok. It's your last year here," she says. I look up at her, upon hearing my Korean name. To me, it doesn't sound like my name, but to Mom, I think it means something special. Sometimes, I think she has so much more to say to me, but it gets lost, partly because of the gap separating Korean and English, and partly because of some other kind of gap that has always existed between me and my parents.

On the way to the bus stop, I slip the container of litchi nuts into a garbage can alongside the road. Wasteful, I know, but I'm always so nervous on the first day of school. All those kids. Especially the popular ones.

Everyone is at the bus stop -- the same faces from last year, and the year before, and the year before that, but my throat still constricts. I wish Jessie lived nearby so she could take the bus with me. Two of the hockey players, Brad Whitlock and Mike Anderson, are loudly hooting and swaggering as if they own the place. I slip back and try to become invisible.

When the bus comes, student bodies swarm around the door like eager bees waiting to get into the hive. I let most of the kids go ahead of me, but as I board, someone shoves me from behind.

"Hey chink, move over."

In back of me is Brad Whitlock, a darkly adult look clouding his face. The sound of his words hangs for a moment in the cramped air of the school bus. Numbly, I look around. Everyone seems to be looking somewhere else: out the window, at their books, just away. Brad pushes past me to the back of the bus, where he resumes guffawing with his friends.

I sit gingerly in the nearest seat, like an old lady afraid of breaking something. I feel so ashamed, and I don't know why. And why Brad Whitlock, the popular guy who had never before even bothered to acknowledge my existence all these years at Arkin High? I keep my eyes fixed on the landscape and concentrate on keeping them dry....

Finding My Voice. Copyright © by Marie Lee. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Finding My Voice 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book that shows how ethnicities can experience racism and inequality. The book was about a Korean family who is very focused on school, They think that anything other than Harvard is a disgrace, Her name is Ellen Sung but her Korean name is Myong- Ok. She lives in a primarily white area in Minnesota. She gets called ching chong from ignorant people, She appreciates friends how they stick up for her.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book blew me away. I was glad that Ellen stood up to Marsha in the end because she has kept quiet about the racism too long. This book is definitely one of my favorites. Most of us know that parents have high expectations for us, and it's like they have alligned our futures for us. That is exactly what Ellen Sung is going through, and she has to put up with racism too. I respect Ellen a lot. This book made me cry, especially when Tomper told her he loved her when she was hurt. That was so touching. I have to thank Marie G. Lee for doing such a great job on this book, and I highly recommed this book to everyone. I will definitely be reading this book countless times if I can, and I'm really hoping that there will be a sequal to this book where Ellen comes back to Arkin and reunites with Tomper, Beth, Mike, and Jessie, and that Marsha and Brad apologize for all the mean racial comments.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is not my type of book. But even so if it was I think it was predictable but even so it still was not as bad as some books I read that are of that nature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a great book because I see that she is running through some hard times in her life. It kind of reminds me of myself because I would like to go to college to become a basketball player but it is hard for me with my job and my boyfriend. Its like I understand every root she is coming from. I dont really like to read books that much but this book I really enjoyed. I am looking forward to read more of her books
Guest More than 1 year ago
A real tearjerker and an emotionally touching story of a young girl and her extraordinary life. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
u gotta love this book. this stuff happens in real life. ellen sung has to face racism, pressure, and competition,just like us in our everyday lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a parent, I'm always interested in what my children read and my daughter, who is a very shy, artistic child, seemed to love this book and read it over and over so finally I had to see what it's all about. It's a very touching story about a high school girl who's trying to find herself amidst a lot of conflicting pressures. I think the relationship between ELlen and her parents is very relevant to a lot of kids. I wasn't thrilled about some of the bad language, but I guess that's what they have to do these days to make the book true to life. Still, I was happy to really like the book and wd recommend it to anyone mature enough to handle the themes (racism, sexuall atrraction) and the language.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book by chance at a used bookstore and I'm so glad I did--it's such a great book about going through high school, and being Asian American, it really spoke to me, and my white friends say it gives them a much better perspective on racism--like, even Asian Americans have to deal with a LOT of racism. I used to buy it a lot for gifts and I was so mad when it went out of print but I'm sooooo glad it's back.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Korean-American girl finds herself in the middle of everything. Her senior year is very long. Her best friend is going to a different college than her. She is very sad about that. Her parents are very protective. When this popular guy starts liking her, she falls in love with him. But a real popular girl with beautiful blonde hair tries to steal him away from her. Tomper goes out with the real popular girl, but realizes he is in love with Ellen. Her parents pressure Ellen for good grades though. Her parents want her to go to Harvard like her sister. She also feels she has to compete with her sister in everything. Ellen is in gymnastics, which her parents don't like either, but let her do b/c she likes it. In the end, there is a happy ending, but to find out the details you need to read the book. This book was very good. It made you think about what people in other races go through everyday. I have read better books, but this book was easy to keep my nose in. I couldn't put it down. The plot wasn't what I had expected. It doesn't leave you hanging anywhere. I would recommend it to anyone who is trying to find their voice.