Kim/Kimi Critical Context - Essay

Lee Hadley

Critical Context

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.