A Korean family emigrates to the United States in search of a better life. Told from the viewpoint of the daughter, the story follows her from age four to age sixteen. She and her family encounter language difficulties, feelings of isolation, a struggle for identity, and an abusive relationship with her father. Young Ju, the daughter, goes to school with no understanding of English, and develops into one of the top members of her class. Apa, the father, begins to resent her acquisition of English and her successful assimilation into American culture. He resents those who understand English, mistrusts the intensions of Americans, and becomes abusive with his family. Uhmma, the mother, adapts much more readily, is able to stay focused on the dream of becoming American and allowing her children to live a better life. She and the children join a church, in order to become more accepted and further assimilated into the culture. Apa; however, holds the family back, punishing them for their successes. Eventually, the struggle to fit in becomes too much for Apa, and he moves back to Korea. The rest of the family remains in America and is finally allowed to develop as Americans.