A Step From Heaven


An Na

Number of Pages: 


Minimum grade level: 


Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Explain the significance of the memory that opens the novel. How is the end of the book reflected in its beginning?
  2. What is understood as being "a step from heaven"? What is the irony contained in the title?
  3. What lie does Young Ju tell in second grade? Why does she lie? What is the result of her lie?
  4. Acting as translator gives Young Ju a unique measure of power over her father at the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services. In what ways is Young Ju powerful in her life? In what ways is she powerless?
  5. After the baby bird Harry dies, Joon says, "It never happens the way we want. Never." What does he mean by this statement?
  6. How does the use of Korean words in the novel mirror the events in Young Ju's life? In what way is the reader like Young Ju at the beginning of the novel when many Korean words are introduced?
  7. How is Young Ju's friendship with Amanda different from most close high school friendships?
  8. What actions let us know that Young Ju's Apa is proud of his daughter?
  9. How does Young Ju respond to her father's violent episodes? What do you think drives her to respond differently in the climactic scene when she calls 911?
  10. How much control do people have over their lives in American society today? How much control do teenagers have? How much control should teenagers have?


Coca-Cola: "This drink bites the inside of my mouth and throat like swallowing tiny fish bones." (p. 28) Goldfish crackers: "I put one Go-do-feesh in my mouth and bite it slowly. It crunches like sand. A smoky salty taste sits on my tongue. These Go-do-feesh are good to eat." (p. 34)

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.