Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Other Graces

Short Story by Alice Sola Kim

Grace Cho has invented the phrase "yellow trash" to describe her poor, crazy Korean family. For much of her life, she can't even afford shampoo. Her brother sits at home watching History Channel conspiracy shows all day and pretends to have Tourette's even though he doesn't. Her mother makes all the money and can't speak English, and her father is insane and lives in a nearby shelter, occasionally stopping by to "clean" the house or steal mail out of their mailbox. She is desperate to escape and get into an Ivy League college.

She finds she has help in this endeavor when she is contacted by The Other Graces. Versions of herself from alternate dimensions, slightly ahead in the timeline. They help her on the SATs, but the real challenge facing our Grace is dealing with adolescence and college applications and racism and getting her mail back from her crazy father to know if she is accepted.

Oh, and never directly mentioned in the story, but a deadly serious undertone: Grace reads a bunch of science fiction, has family history of mental illness, and suddenly starts hearing voices in her head helping her with the SATs. Maybe it is really alternate versions of herself, but maybe she has inherited something from Dad. She is smart enough to do well on her own I think...

Sort of a coming-of-age story that made me laugh all the way through, while at the same time feeling sorry for Grace. Her sarcasm and angry sense of humor really bring this story together for me. And I still don't know whether she is crazy or not, but she finally manages to wrest some control of her life back from her parents and generally shitty situation, so I consider this a happy ending. And a heartwarming and funny way of getting there.

4.5 Grace Cho's out of 5.

P.S. This story was told in the second person, from one Grace to another, and it didn't bug me or even seem important enough to mention in the review, it just seemed appropriate. So bravo, Ms. Kim. A non-obnoxious use of the second person!

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