GOOD ENOUGH – my new favorite YA novel!

O. M. G. 

I feel like I haven’t read a really good young adult novel since I took YA Literature last spring with Loretta Gaffney. AHHHHH Paula Yoo’s first YA novel, Good Enough, (HarperCollins Feb 2008) totally blew my socks off. Patti is a high school senior with perfect grades and perfect helicopter parents. Although my parents weren’t as overbearing as hers, much of the story (including all the SPAM references!) totally resonated with me. My brother and I were expected to perform well in school, be obedient, don’t ask questions, be an officer/leader in every club/organization/team, attend church diligently, hang out with good kids, become a doctor and/or lawyer (or marry one, as Patti says), and live happily ever after. Well, neither my brother nor I became a doctor or lawyer (or married one) but I think we’re all living happily ever after anyway, and our parents are pretty happy with us too. They tell us (now) that they want us to be happy and be with people who make us happy. And doing just that – being happy – seems like an elusive dream for Patti as she struggles with what is happiness and what is success, and can the two ever be the same? Like a good story, the ending of Good Enough is not neatly tied up but rather leaves open the possibilities for Patti to choose her own path to happiness.

Here’s the Harper‘s blurb:

How to make your Korean parents happy:

1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.
2. Get into HarvardYalePrinceton.
3. Don’t talk to boys.*

Patti’s parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her All-State violin competition and earning less than 2300 on her SATs is simply not good enough.

But Patti’s discovering that there’s more to life than the Ivy League. To start with, there’s Cute Trumpet Guy. He’s funny, he’s talented, and he looks exactly like the lead singer of Patti’s favorite band. Then, of course, there’s her love of the violin. Not to mention cool rock concerts. And anyway, what if Patti doesn’t want to go to HarvardYalePrinceton after all?

Paula Yoo scores big in her hilarious debut novel about an overachiever who longs to fit in and strives to stand out. The pressure is on!

*Boys will distract you from your studies.


When was the last time you were so inspired? I have Caroline Kennedy’s A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children within easy reach so I can enjoy a few poems before bed each night. It’s an absolute delight to read and really puts my mind at ease before I fall asleep. This morning I woke up to yet another delight: Caroline Kennedy’s op-ed piece likening Senator Obama to her father in the NY Times. I completely agree with her, as many do, that this country needs inspiration and hope; Senator Obama provides that for us. It’s not just a promise. He lives it.

He could truly be the best president since Kennedy. And that puts my mind at ease.

Op-Ed Contributor

A President Like My Father


Published: January 27, 2008

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual. (emphasis mine)

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Caroline Kennedy is the author of “A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love.”

Linguistic Imperialism?

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…

From today’s Korea Herald:

High Schools May Teach in English from 2010

Elite high schools are expected to begin teaching various subjects in English in 2010, according to the presidential transition committee yesterday

It is part of President-elect Lee Myung-bak’s plans to enhance English education, which will be announce early next month.

The new policy, designed to offer students greater exposure to English, will be implemented first in elite schools including autonomous private high schools, and be expanded later to ordinary schools, officials said. The two kinds of schools targeted for the first implementation are among the 300 kinds of schools which the incoming government plans to introduce, as part of its efforts to give schools more leeway in creating and managing their curricula.

Amid concerns that a quick implementation of such a program in all subjects could have negative effects, such as a decrease in students’ understanding of the subjects, the committee is considering applying the teaching program only to relatively easy-to-understand subjects such as math and science first, and to others gradually.

The committee said it plans to implement the English immersion policy as soon as possible, in order to ease the financial burden on parents which stems from the high costs of their children’s private English classes — estimated at 15 trillion won ($15.8 billion) a year.

Meanwhile, concerns are rising about the practicality of such a policy of “immersing” students in classes where they can learn other subjects in English.

“To create the right environment where teachers are capable enough to smoothly lead a class in English, and students can understand the lesson, is of paramount importance. Rather than discussing whether the policy is good or not, we should create the conditions first, which is fairly difficult, at present,” said Cha Kyung-whan, a professor in the English education department at ChungAng University.

“It would be very difficult in the actual subjects, although the policy itself looks really ideal. Even in a highly advanced class, only one third of the students understand my English lecturing. Teaching other subjects in English would increase the anxiety of the students and make them shy away from the subjects, while those who are good at English enjoy the classes. This could, in turn, exacerbate the social gap,” said Kang Dong-heun, an English teacher in Incheon.

By Song Sang-ho



Really??? Not that I’m advocating hypernationalism via monolingualism, but I think Korea is in perpetual danger of being drawn further and further into the sphere of American (neo)imperialism. The Korean language is beautiful in its own right; what will happen to the students at those “elite” schools? Will they be able to function in Korean society as well as their non-“elite” peers? How will they view their national culture if their language use is different? How has this worked out (or not) in other countries (Philippines, Singapore, etc)?

sigh… And here I am, trying like mad to learn Korean.

You Never Know Who You’re Going to Meet

so they say God even cares about the sparrows and knows the number of hairs on my head. so why ever worry? there is a God in heaven who’s looking out for me.

i debated what to wear on my flight to philly. i was on my way to the association for library and information science conference, where i will reconnect with my gslis professors/colleagues and do interviews with a couple of schools for professorships. i decided to go ktown style and wear all black. it looks professional, right?

my flight stopped over in dallas, which, by the way is a phenomenal airport. i was one of the last people on the plane, and the gentleman in seat E had to get up so i could get into F. he asked if i needed to store anything up top; i said no, thank you.

about 90 minutes went by. i updated my cv for my website, finished reading american libraries, and watched a couple of korean music videos on my ipod. then i pulled out some job cover letters so i could review them before the interviews. the one on top was for the university of texas-austin. a few seconds after i started looking at it, the gentleman next to me asked, “are you sarah park?” 

he was the dean of the library science program at the university of texas-austin. he had glanced over, saw his name at the top of my letter, and put two and two together. so for the next hour i sort of had an informal, very pleasant interview. he told me a lot about the school, and i told him about my work, and he questioned me about my research, and i questioned him about the vision and future directions of the school. it was, in a word, awesome.

the dean had plans to meet someone at the airport, so i went to get my bag and find the shuttle. the lady next to me told the info person that she wanted to take the lady liberty shuttle to the sheraton, so i asked her if she was going to ALISE and we decided to go together. after introducing ourselves, we realized she’s the chair of the search committee at another school in texas i applied to. and then we ran into the dean at another LIS school, where i also applied, and the 3 of us shared a cab to the hotel. by the end of the evening, i scored another interview. 

the moral of the story is: God is always in control. and stop freaking out. and always be ready to talk about your research. and memorize what the deans of schools look like. and find out who’s chairing the search committees. and always dress your best. you never know who you’re going to meet.