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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unidentified Suburban Object is about a girl who feels doubly isolated: Not only is she part of the only Asian-American family in town, but her parents refuse to discuss their Korean heritage. Author Mike Jung tackles questions about identity including cultural pride, fitting in, standing out, and racial insensitivity with wry humor. He documents some of the countless tiny ways people's assumptions about race and culture can sting, from the people who think all Asian-Americans are alike to the classmate who claims that Asian people have a gene that makes them great violinists. Chloe, fed up with other people's assumptions (and ignorance) concerning Koreans, can be short-tempered toward others, but she clearly has a good heart.
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What's the story?
Chloe Cho sometimes feels like an alien as the only Asian-American at school in UNIDENTIFIED SUBURBAN OBJECT. She bristles when classmates and teachers compare her to a famous Korean violinist, see her as an overachiever, confuse Koreans with other Asians, or admire her "exotic" fashion. Chloe's desperate to learn more of her Korean heritage, but her parents dodge her questions, saying the past is too painful. When a family history project that goes disastrously awry finally gets her parents to open up, the secret they reveal throws Chloe into a tailspin. Suddenly, Chloe's struggling in school, slipping in orchestra, and fighting with her parents and her best friend. Figuring out who she is proves harder than she ever thought possible.
Is it any good?
Mike Jung examines how the way we view ourselves is shaped by our understanding of our heritage and how others see us in this sharply funny, genre-bending novel about race, family, and identity. Unidentified Suburban Object vividly portrays how isolated Chloe Cho feels as she tries to connect with a Korean identity her parents reject. The novel takes a hard left turn halfway through that risks alienating some readers, but the payoff is an emotionally honest roller coaster trip with Chloe. She's justifiably angry and bitter over her parents' betrayal and feels more adrift than ever. She reinforces her sense of isolation by cutting herself off from everyone she's cared about, diving into fiction for clues to find a path forward. That path includes a touch of humility, a deeper understanding of close relationships, and a cliffhanger ending that suggests a sequel is in store. That's great news, because Chloe's journey seems to be just beginning.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about racial insensitivity in Unidentified Suburban Object. How do you respond to comments that strike you as rude or ignorant? And how do you respond when someone calls you out for saying something that that person found rude or ignorant?
Have you noticed a connection between science fiction/fantasy and themes of racial identity? Which stories come to mind? And what do you think they were commenting on?
How did you feel about the genre-shifting turn halfway through the book?
- Author: Mike Jung
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: May 30, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: November 22, 2017
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