Definitely more for older middle graders, like its main character, this novel is brave, bold, and unflinching in showing the reality of racism, historically and now. Finding Junie Kim is an important and timely novel that features an Asian American girl lead who starts out shy, depressed, and with little hope, but quickly turns into a story of empowerment, resistance, and finding your own voice. The kinds of racist and bullying language and behavior that many Asian American children must endure daily at their schools can be shocking to many parents, as well as the reasons for why children might not want to talk about similar hardships they face. But this novel also models positive and nonviolent ways of resistance.
The portions that cover Junie's grandparents' stories, their experiences and hardships with racism, communism, and wartime violence, absolutely shine. With these family experiences now within her, Junie finds herself. The journey of claiming identity that Junie takes in Finding Junie Kim is inspiring and, sadly at this point, necessary. It is stories like these, in our own voices, that help to change minds, teach others, and shut down hate.