Krista Kim-Bap is written by Angela Ahn, a former high school English and social studies teacher from Vancouver, BC. Through this story, Ahn discusses cultural stigma and stereotypes while focusing on the desire of young adolescents to fit in to their social environment and, at times, hide parts of their identities to conform to perceived norm.
This young-reader novel focuses on Krista, a Korean Canadian girl in grade five who has a best friend, Jason, a White boy with reddish-brown hair. Krista and Jason have been friends since they were in preschool, often hanging out with Krista’s family and enjoying Korean food. But at school, Krista senses she is seen as the “Korean Ambassador.” This makes her feel self-conscious about herself and her culture. Ahn highlights specific stereotypes that Krista, as a Korean-Canadian, experiences. Krista is embarrassed to wear a Korean hanbok (traditional dress) and eat Korean food (because some of it smells bad to non-Koreans) in front of her peers as this would make her stand out and feel awkward. She also feels she has to change some of her features, taping her eyelids so her eyes appear larger and look more Western.
Krista’s mother and grandmother teach her that they are Korean but also Canadian. They explain that their Korean-ness and Canadian-ness is all ‘mushed’ up together and without both they wouldn’t be themselves. This is a lesson many of our students can relate to and learn from.
Our classrooms showcase diversity and different cultures. It is important that our students embrace and share their cultural identities with others. After all, diversity is one of the most beautiful aspects of living in Canada. Krista Kim-Bap could start a discussion about diversity among our students.
This would be a great book to add to a language arts program at the junior or intermediate levels. It presents an excellent platform for discussing bullying and the media’s impact on what people think is beautiful. Krista Kim-Bap can be embedded throughout the curriculum, specifically focusing on equality and social justice.
Lindsay Freedman is a member of the Peel Teacher Local.