Yumi Chung dreams of being a stand-up comedian. The only problem is that she’s incredibly shy and self-conscious—which isn’t the best combination when it comes to stage presence—and her immigrant parents aren’t too keen on the idea. They would much rather she focus on bringing her grades up, which is why they enroll Yumi in a summer prep course to help her test into a fancy private school. With their Korean barbeque restaurant failing, Yumi’s parents figure that helping her to secure a successful future is what’s most important. One day, on her way to her prep course, Yumi stumbles upon a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube comedians, and she gets mistaken for someone enrolled in the program named Kay Nakamura. Will Yumi be able to perfect her craft, keep her parents happy, and possibly save the family restaurant before this case of mistaken identity unravels around her?
Title & Author: “Stand Up, Yumi Chung!” by Jessica Kim
Published By: Kokila (Penguin)
Availability: Released on March 17th, 2020
Page Count: 320 pages
Genre(s): Middle Grade, KidLit, Contemporary, Fiction, Coming of Age, Family
Potential Triggers: Some explorations of racism and bullying
Stand Up, Yumi Chung! is a heartfelt story all about family and self-discovery. As an aspiring comedian, Yumi fears there isn’t enough room on stage for her own experiences and stories to shine—because when all is said and done, comedy is really just another form of storytelling.
This book really explores comedy as a space for vulnerability, where comedians share intimate parts of their personal lives as a means to connect with the audience, using storytelling to both heal from and make sense of their experiences. Being a young Korean-American girl, Yumi isn’t confident that people will connect with jokes about her most awkward moments, and she also worries that putting her “flaws” front and center will go against her parents’ teachings to always put her best foot forward.
At the same time, the story challenges the stereotypes concerning “tiger parents” and “strict Asian upbringing.” While Yumi’s parents are hard on her, it’s because they want a better future for her. They don’t want her to have to become a laborer like them, at the mercy of fickle customers. What’s more, even though they may not be able to understand the issues Yumi faces as a first-generation immigrant, that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Yumi herself is also not trying to defy her parents or undermine the lessons they’ve taught her, but rather show them that she respects them by figuring out how to balance her values and her comedy as two equal parts of herself.
This story understands that getting a first chance at your dream, much less a second, is a privilege, and that maybe the endgame isn’t getting what we want. Maybe the endgame is learning how to love each other better and how to use what we’re given in the best way we know how.
Adri (they/them) is a queer, trans, and non-binary Mexican-American book reviewer. They’ve been creating BookTube content for over six years on perpetualpages and remain interested in creating content that celebrates and centers marginalized voices, intersectional viewpoints, and inclusive ideologies. When they’re not re-watching RWBY or Avatar: The Last Airbender, they can be found writing, laughing out loud while listening to podcasts in public, playing video games, and wearing geeky graphic tees to telegraph their interests to other people.
You can find them on their Youtube channel, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram as @_perpetualpages_.