Joseph Calderaro was adopted as an infant by an Italian couple in New Jersey. The story of his life before he left Korea and arrived in America, has never been fully explained to this 14-year-old. A social studies assignment to write about his “ancestors” leads Joseph to a stealth internet investigation, a friendship with a Korean family new to his town, a horrible lie, and some answers to painful questions concerning his “sandwich” identity.
I was initially very skeptical of this book. The plot takes on pretty serious issues of identity and authenticity, and at first I was nervous these issues wouldn’t be handled delicately. Yet, the characters are so well developed that they were able to not only overcome the challenges of a teenager understanding the ramifications of his adoption and ethnic identity, but they were also able to overcome my reservations about how these topics would be handled. They’re aren’t any neat, clean answers, and yet there is a satisfying resolution. The one thing I didn’t like that much were all the food details, and I’m concerned they will hamper my students’ ability to understand and really dive into the story. The title, in particular, could have been much better. I’d love to try both Calamari, and Kimchi, but I’d have preferred a more inviting title.