Kodama’s Ramen Shop

In the story “Kodama’s Ramen Shop,” by Ellen Oh, the grandmother is a dynamic character because by the end of the story she changes her attitude towards her non-Japanese family members and her attitude toward Korean food. Obaasan, as she is referred to in the story, realizes how much it hurts her granddaughter when she makes derogatory comments about aspects of Korean culture. There are many instances throughout the story where the main character, Jessie, talks about how her grandmother is racist, and has never treated people such as her mom or aunt well. “Auntie Mio was half-Japanese and half-Black, and although Mio spoke perfect Japanese, Obaasan never let her forget that she wasn’t 100 percent Japanese.” (160). Although Jessie’s Aunt was family, her grandmother never respected her because she was racist, and didn’t like anyone who wasn’t entirely Japanese. She wouldn’t let her help with certain things in her ramen shop because she did not trust that she would be able to do them well. Jessie resents her grandmother for always being rude to her late mother, who was Korean, and always hating her food. “Obaasan hated Korean food, but she seemed to hate kimchi the most. Jessie’s mom had to buy a small kimchi refrigerator and put it in the garage because Obaasan wouldn’t allow it in the kitchen.” (162). One day, a Korean customer came to their family’s ramen shop and asked for a spice or condiment like Kimchi to spice up the ramen which really infuriated Obaasan who insulted the customer under her breath. This was the final straw for Jessie who finally expressed her true feelings about how her Grandma mistreated Jessie’s mother simply because she was Korean. The explosive confrontation between Jessie and Obaasan led to Obaasan being hospitalized and then realizing that she has acted poorly toward people simply because they were of a different race. She realized her poor and unfair treatment of Jessie’s mother could ruin her ongoing relationship with the granddaughter she loves so dearly. “I was such a fool. I let my pride ruin everything, and I let my pride ruin everything… Will you teach me her kimchi recipe?” (177).

Reading Update: Last Night at The Telegraph Club

Last Night at The Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo, starts with a short prologue. The main character is thirteen, watching a Miss Chinatown pageant with her best friend. I think this worked really well at setting the scene for the rest of the book. We learn about the main character, Lily, and her relationship with her best friend. You can also get a good sense of how Lily thinks, and the themes for the rest of the book. The story is set in the 50’s, in Chinatown in San Francisco. The setting is set very well, for example, when Lily goes to a department store with her mom. The author doesn’t spend a lot of time describing the physical environment, but the mood is clear. You learn about how Lily’s Mom’s personality and views compare to hers, and how Lily acts around her mom compared to what she thinks.