About the book: The young adult novel describes the brutal experiences of an 11-year-old girl whose Japanese family is forced to flee their home in North Korea at the end of World War II.
Excerpt: “It was almost midnight on July 29, 1945, when my mother, my elder sister Ko, and I, carrying as many of our belongings as we could on our back, fled our home in its bamboo grove, our friends, and our town, Nanam, in northern Korea, forever.”
The controversy: The novel, part of the state’s recommended reading list, was removed from the sixth-grade English curriculum at Dover-Sherborn Middle School in Massachusetts in 2006 due to scenes hinting at rape, violence against women by Korean men, and a distorted presentation of history. The book is based on the real-life experiences of Kawashawa Watkins, whose father was a Japanese government official. In a reversal of its decision, the Dover-Sherborn Regional School Committee voted unanimously to keep the book as part of a sixth-grade language arts unit on survival. The school decided to also explore other texts to bring balance to the unit in response to the criticism leveled against the book by some parents and community members.