Study Guide

A Step from Heaven Chapter 23

By An Na

Chapter 23

Becoming Too American

  • It's Amanda's birthday party—with boys, at the beach—but Uhmma's not letting Young Ju go.
  • Why, you ask? Because American girls are all fast and boy-crazy; i.e., a bad influence on Young Ju.
  • Young Ju's begging Uhmma to let her go, but Uhmma tells her she can just give Amanda a gift at school.
  • So Young Ju switches tactics—she tries to pump Amanda's image up.
  • Amanda gave her class notes when she was absent once; Amanda bought her a necklace when it was her birthday; Amanda loaned her lunch money when she didn't have any.
  • Wait, what? Young Ju borrowed money?
  • That's totally not okay in Uhmma's book because rule number one for a Korean family is that you don't borrow money and become indebted to someone outside the family… according to Uhmma anyway.
  • Now Young Ju's in debt to Amanda, so Uhmma decides Young Ju can go to the party.
  • Young Ju does a doubletake, but Uhmma explains that she has to go because now she's obligated to go—after all, she took money from Amanda.
  • You think Young Ju cares about this greater lesson though?
  • Nope—Young Ju's off getting ready for the party before Uhmma changes her mind.
  • Once they arrive at the beach, Young Ju tells Uhmma to drop her off far from where the actual party is because—you guessed it—Young Ju's embarrassed by her mother.
  • Young Ju reminds Uhmma that she also doesn't need to pick Young Ju up since Amanda's parents will drop her off.
  • Uhmma suspects nothing and drives off, while Young Ju observes all this black smoke coming out of their beat-up station wagon.
  • When it's time for Amanda's parents to drive Young Ju home, Young Ju lies about where she lives.
  • She gets Mr. Doyle to drop her off at a nice two-story house up on the hill.
  • But that's not enough, and since Mr. Doyle's the responsible sort, she actually has to pretend to go into the yard of the house in order for the Doyles to drive off.
  • As Young Ju walks home, she notices how nice it is up on the hill—the air is fresh, the lawns are neat. She's glad they buried Harry the baby bird on the hill.
  • Her neighborhood is the complete opposite of the houses on the hill: there isn't much grass and there are all these metal fences crisscrossing everything.
  • Plus the apartment they rent really isn't anything to look at.
  • Young Ju goes inside her home and eats dinner with her family, but it's really quiet—so different from the talkative Doyles.
  • Young Ju wonders why her parents can't be more like the Doyles, who tease each other and help each other out.
  • Apa's drinking beer and asking to use the car tomorrow, but Uhmma wants to know why, since it'll be a Sunday and she needs the car to go to church.
  • But Apa's not about to give in to Uhmma.
  • Young Ju recognizes this and so she jumps in to help out Uhmma by saying she's got chorus practice at church and can't miss it.
  • Apa doesn't care though and tells her to finish eating.
  • That Young Ju—she just can't keep quiet unfortunately, and she asks Apa why he needs the car anyway.
  • Bad idea.
  • Apa tells Young Ju to stand up and walk over to him.
  • Then he hits her on the side of her head and tells her never to question him.
  • He goes on and yells at her about how Amanda's making her "too American;" he even calls Amanda "worthless."
  • Harsh, right? Young Ju thinks so too.
  • So she quietly disagrees with Apa.
  • Super bad idea. He slams her to the ground and then tells her not to get up until she knows "how to be a Korean girl again."