Kim/Kimi, with its themes of racial intolerance and ethnic awareness as they affect a young person’s search for identity, is an excellent multicultural novel. The child of an interracial marriage, Kim Andrews must find her past to create a foundation for her future.
The authors present Kim’s story as an archetypal quest. Mrs. Mueller guides the protagonist in her quest with the words, “Learning, remembering, forgetting. That is how we find out who we are.” The heroine must overcome obstacles, including her own doubts and fears. Simple but satisfying, the plot follows her journey to California in search of her paternal grandparents. The story moves rapidly and reaches a climax with Kim’s first, disastrous reunion with her grandmother. The authors avoid the usual pat, predictable ending. Indeed, an unhappy ending seems almost certain when Kim’s grandmother refuses to see her on her second visit. The reader is left with a sense of hope at the conclusion of the novel, however, as the protagonist realizes that her grandmother has accepted her into the family.
In Kim/Kimi, one finds a unity of plot and characterization. The personality of the protagonist, Kim Andrews, is developed in a nonstereotypical manner. She is an all-American girl who knows little about non-Caucasians. Aware of her physical differences, she is angry and confused about her Japanese heritage. Although she is bright, she is frequently in trouble at school and earns poor grades. Ultimately, Kim must achieve a balance between her American lifestyle and her biracial heritage. Her desire to locate her father’s family is tempered by her fears that they will reject her, as they rejected...
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Historically, there have been few young adult novels by or about Asian Americans. Kim/Kimi is a seminal work in that body of multicultural literature whose purpose is to break down racial and ethnic stereotypes. The novel dispels clichés while briefly opening a page in U.S. history. In a similar way, Yoshiko Uchida’s novel Journey to Topaz (1971) mirrored harsh realities at the Topaz relocation camp while reminding readers that not all Americans hated the Japanese immigrants and their children.
For more than fifteen years, joint authors Lee Hadley and Ann Irwin pooled their individual writing talents to create novels of truth and beauty for young people. They often explored universal truths and social issues through the eyes of young adult protagonists.
Their novel I Be Somebody (1984) also explores racial themes, as a young black boy in the early twentieth century faces leaving his home when his community considers emigrating to Canada in order to escape prejudice in the United States. In addition, they wrote Abby, My Love (1985), a sensitive coming-of-age novel that deals with incest; it was named an American Library Association Notable Book and was chosen as one of the Child Study Association of America’s Children’s Books of the Year. In Can’t Hear You Listening (1990), a teenage girl struggles for independence from an overprotective mother while trying to help a friend who is experimenting with drugs.