So Far from the Bamboo Grove

by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

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How would you describe the honorable sister, Ko, in the book, "So Far From the Bamboo Grove"?

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Ko, "tall and broad-shouldered" (Ch.5), is sixteen when she flees Korea with her mother and little sister Yoko. Forced to shoulder enormous responsibilities, Ko responds with strength and courage, albeit not always with gentleness and grace. Yoko describes her sibling perfectly as

"a big sister who is strong and rough and sometimes very bossy...still, she loves me" (Chapter 8).

Yoko gives a wry but clear example of her sister's ways in telling how

"when we did not find much food in the garbage she gave me most of it, saying my little dumb brain would not function without food and winter winds would blow me away" (Chapter 8).

Ko must call upon her resourcefulness and strength time after time during her family's harrowing journey. She carries her Mother's bundle because it is the heaviest, reacts quickly in the face of imminent danger from both other refugees and soldiers, and scrounges food to keep herself, her mother, and little sister alive. When their Mother dies, Ko takes full charge of her younger sister, keeping them both safe until their older brother returns.

Ko tolerates no nonsense from young Yoko, even at one point telling her

"this journey would be easier if you had got killed" (Ch.5).

Her actions prove she does not mean her harsh words, however, and her brusqueness is understandable considering the extreme conditions the family had to overcome. Yoko is correct in describing Ko as being strong, rough, bossy, and loving.

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