12 year old American girl named Junie Kim is an introvert and a victim of depression and suicidal thoughts owing to rascism because of her Asian descent. Junie feels herself to be a looser but doesn’t share her pain with anyone, not even her parents, friends or brother. When her therapist ask her questions such as “When you get angry, do you let your emotions out, or do you let them simmer internally?”, Junie finally tells the things that have been hurting her and is relieved. She feels as if a heavy weight has just gotten a little bit lighter. The burden is still there, but now after sharing it with someone, it felt good. Ellen Oh has very easily portrayed the tumultuous emotions of a depressed 12 year old.
It takes therapy, medicines, constant attention of parents, for Junie to realise that she is no looser. But most importantly it is the story of her Grandpa and Grandma’s childhood times during the Korean war. From the stories Junie realises how courageous were her elders in situations she cannot even comprehend. She takes interview of her grandparents and video tapes them for not just a school assignment but also to keep her family’s stories safe and available even after her Grandparents will pass away. Junie finds her strength and courage in those stories to face the rascist bullies in her school.
The book also makes me remember my own maternal Grandma (Naani) and Grandfather (Nanaji), both of whom had great life experiences. It was particularly Naani who would keep telling her life stories of the times when she was young, of interesting events related to people in the village, of his father’s job and life. There was so much she would tell. My heart aches while writing this that I wish one of us had taken out the time to record few of those stories of her. She was the most amazing and generous person I have seen in my life. No one can beat her calm, serene and loving attitude which was not restricted to few people but to all the beings she came across. Naani left the world in April 2021. And unlike Junie who had her Grandparents video recorded war stories, I have a video of my Naani singing a devotional song to a cat. There is so much peace in her.
You can buy the book from Amazon.