Kira-Kira Questions and Answers
by Cynthia Kadohata

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What is the main climax of the novel and how does it resolve the main conflict in the novel?

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Kira-Kira tells the story of Katie and Lynn, young, Japanese-American girls living with their parents and baby brother in Georgia. The title comes from the Japanese word "kira-kira" meaning glittering. Lynn, who is four years older than Katie, teaches her little sister the word when she is quite small and it becomes a key connection between the two over the years.

From Katie's perspective, Lynn seems to have a life that is very kira-kira. She watches her sister grow up, make a best friend (Amber) and kiss a boy (Gregg). All the while, Katie feels very behind. She ultimately makes her own friend and kisses her own boy, but she's always far behind her big sister.

Lynn falls ill as the book progresses, and even that seems to make her life special. She has some privacy in the sickroom that is all her own. Katie is not jealous, but Lynn seems very glad which does make Katie feel lonely and sad. The two sisters have always been close and Lynn's illness creates a separation between them.

Ultimately, Lynn dies and Katie and her parents are left heartbroken. Throughout the novel, Katie has been growing up and trying to find herself. The main conflict in the novel is Katie's coming-of-age journey as a Japanese-American girl in the mid-1900s. Katie has trouble making sense of the world around her which she learns is full of racism and sexism.

Lynn's death is the main climax of the novel. After Lynn's death, Katie loses the one person who helped ground her sense of self. While Katie did not always know who she was, she was guided by watching Lynn's journey. When Lynn dies, Katie is forced to use the lessons she's learned from her sister, friends, and family to see the world through her own eyes. Remembering that Lynn saw the world as kira-kira, Katie tries to see it that way, too. While the immediate aftermath of Lynn's death is difficult for the entire family, they are motivated to live their lives more fully in honor of Lynn, and things begin to improve for them.

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