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 her father for his interracial marriage. Ultimately, Kim grows from an immature, impatient teenager, enamored with romance novels, into a mature young woman. Her quest leads not only to acceptance by her father’s family but also to pride in her heritage.
Less developed, secondary characters provide balance within the themes of racial intolerance and ethnic awareness. While the protagonist has been the target of racial slurs at school, Davey, Mrs. Mueller, and Kim’s friends, all Caucasians, support Kim’s efforts to go to California. Kim’s Japanese grandfather rejected her father’s marriage on racist grounds, but several Japanese Americans, including the Okamuras and Mrs. Enomoto, help Kim in her quest.
Like the protagonist, readers may have little knowledge of the facts surrounding the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Mrs. Enomoto, a teacher, serves as the vehicle for a first-person account of the experiences of Japanese Americans during the war. Although didactic in tone, her bitter account of life in the camps is necessary to the protagonist’s understanding of her family’s...
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