From the beginning to the end, Sang-Eun Lee Bukaty’s compassion, love and grace had me tear up quietly…. By Dr. Yun-Sook Hong, retired professor University of Pennsylvania, University of California Berkeley, Han-Yang University in Seoul

I found myself savoring each word, counting pages, afraid the story would end. Ms. Bukaty sets out the chapters in chronological order but each chapter as a separately standing piece.  She chronicles her life’s journey through distinct episodes.  The author allows the reader to feel with her through the dialogue and the gripping description of her emotions.

For someone who shared the same campus, (I went to Ewha Girl’s High School) Sang Bukaty’s honest and detailed description, particularly her incredibly vivid memory as a 5-year old child was so engaging, at times I felt as if I was reading my story.

A reader can only come away feeling the genuine love the author has toward her family and friends, as well as respect toward her past teachers.

(This review was translated into English from Korean)

Rare Opportunity to read a first hand account of a young student/musician’s journey…..Helie Lee, best selling author of “Still Life with Rice”

So many courageous stories of early Korean immigrants to America have been lost because many of our parents could not tell their own stories in English to their children. Sang Bukaty’s memoir, Grace Notes, is a rare opportunity to read a first hand account of a young student/ musician’s journey to America and the new life she had built for herself and her three daughters

Grace Notes was a real page-turner. Sang-Eun Lee Bukaty definitely has a book ministry. by Bettye Roland (1/10)

Grace Notes was a real page-turner. I empathized with the author’s experiences as a small child during war and found them humbling. I’ve always known that both my temperament and world view have been shaped by my own experiences between the ages of four and six when my father was serving in WWII. Like Sang-Eun Lee Bukaty, I was very definitely a “daddy’s girl” and his absence converted my happy-go-lucky and secure demeanor into one rather solemn and definitely fearful. I’m sure my mother had no idea that the news reels shown when the two of us went to an occasional movie had any effect on me, but seeing bombs bursting around fox holes and German soldiers advancing en masse with their bayonette-affixed rifles scared, to be quite literal, the pee out of me. I had horrible nightmares that my own father was one of those men being blown to bits and that those German soldiers were in my own house and about to stab me as I curled in a fetal position under the dirty clothes in the hamper in our utility closet. I think I must have wet the bed nightly until he returned safe and sound after fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and being awarded two purple hearts. Traumatic? Yes, but reading your story made my own seem like a walk in the park.

I knew next to nothing about Korea’s culture and history and was grateful to be enlightened. Even more satisfying, however, was learning more about the person who wrote this amazing story. I marvel at her accomplishments, admire the way she loves her family, but am most impressed and praise God for her testimony. Knowing what the true pearl of great price is, a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, makes us sisters in the most blessed of all families. The literary full circle of the pearl from the beginning of the book to the end was most definitely appreciated.

I also related to a Christian who occasionally regurgitates a not-so-nice four-letter word. We’re in process–not perfect! Might even do you in good stead on those campuses, and I think it’s great to be there. We Christians share our faith and lead others to the pearl in diverse ways based on the gifts of the Spirit with which we’ve been endowed. Sang-Eun Lee Bukaty definitely has a book ministry.

Sang-Eun Lee Bukaty is a great story teller of her age contemporaries, first generation Korean-American immigrants…..-Dr. Suzie Oh, Principal, Los Angeles Unified School District (2/10)

Sang-Eun Lee Bukaty tells a poignant and heartwarming story of a first generation Korean-American’s journey through her life. It beautifully connects with English-speaking Americans of all heritages.

“Thank you for sharing your journey so vividly with all of us. ‘Grace Notes’ should be required reading for all students at all levels.”

The song of life, Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (11/09)

“Grace Notes” tells the story of the author Sang-Eun Lee Bukaty’s life.  She began her journey in Korea during the war.  Being born into a prestigious family, she still experienced many hardships when she had to flee her home, with her family, to survive.  Upon returning home and settling down again, she knew that she was different from the rest of her family.  She had to deal with being ostracized by them because she did not have their book smarts.  Being a top student and getting accepted at a prestigious school was critical for the social standing of both the child and the parents.  Sang-Eun did not feel like she fit into the mold that was decided for her.  She was also devastated when her beloved father passed away while she was still very young.

When she discovered a love for music, she found her true calling.  This brought her a great deal of respect.  But it also meant that she had to learn how to deal with the stresses involved with the intense training and performances.  Deciding that the United States offered some exceptional opportunities for her to be educated, she made the journey over to attend college.  Being unofficially adopted by an American couple, she was introduced to the American way of life.  At times she found it fascinating; other times once again, she did not feel like she was a part of it.  Through her music she continued to express herself.

When she met her first husband, who was also Korean, she felt comfortable because they shared their culture; however, she was not totally at peace with him because of his controlling ways and lack of Christian faith.  She pulled away from her music.  She did have three beautiful daughters with him that helped give her life meaning and strengthen her faith.  Reaching within herself for strength and a desire to have her daughters grow up in a happy home, she divorced her husband.  In time she found a great love to share her life with.

“Grace Notes” by Sang-Eun Lee Bukaty is a beautiful, contemplative reflection of one woman’s journey through life.  In both her homeland and in her newfound land Sang-Eun experiences feeling different from others.  She has some incredible people enter her life as teachers.  Not all of the lessons learned from these people were easy.  Her faith in Christ, and her love for her family, carries her a long way through her experiences.  I highly recommend this novel to readers who enjoy biographies, women’s reader groups, and to families of immigrants.  So much wisdom will be gained by seeing life through Sang-Eun’s eyes.

Grace Notes is a fascinating text to introduce students to a genre of writing….by Richard Sandler, teacher, Asian Literature in St. Louise, Missouri

Sang Eun Lee’s memoir, Grace Notes, is a fascinating text to introduce students to a genre of writing less read and a time period in the classroom often overlooked. The combination of historical events she experiences, her close attention to cultural elements of growing up in Korea and her career and immigrant experiences, can all be employed in fascinating ways in a literature, social studies or modern history course. The fact that Sang Eun Lee has a no-holds, honest barred approach to her own life and all her family and friends, engages the reader in ways fiction can not.
The  text begins with a very vivid account of her early years, tracing traditional events in a wealthy Korean family, and then graphically demonstrating the way the war tore apart families when Korea is divided . The vivid scenes could engage students who would otherwise just see the Korean War as another event to be memorized and recited for a test. An educator could worry about how long such a different perspective could hold a young reader’s attention, but as the was recedes, and the age old questions of school/career choice are carefully depicted. Current students could relate to the challenges Sang Lee faces, especially her feelings of academic failure. Sang Eun Lee carefully develops the Confucian values at the core of the traditional family structure without ever coming out and directly addressing the sources. She also examines the way Christianity blends into their family life, both guiding and comforting her as the personal challenges grow for the narrator.
Another timeless element of the piece is how gender plays such an important role in the lives of the various family members and expectations for Sang Eun Lee. The fact that she is one of the youngest girls and clearly in the shadows of her brother, highlights just how some elements of gender have changed since the 1950’s and others hold true, especially in the Korean family.  Her brother’s violent rages and her husband’s issues over control demonstrates an honest portrait of her self and family. The detailed preparation and failure at the school selection process is appealing to any reader, but Sang Eun Lee’s ability to convey a sense of how the discovery of the Cello and the wonderful description of how the music transforms her sense of experiences, and eventual serves to drive her fate is something straight out of a good piece of literature.
Another aspect of the memoir that could easily be employed to convey the universal nature of the similarities in cultures is her quest for a romantic partner. Sang Eun Lee paints a clear, but not overly judgmental view of her parents’ relationship, to frame what her expectations are for dating. The traditions of “The Meeting”, where each student is assigned a number and matched to spend an evening together, leading her to practice the cello more, is both humorous and revealing. The emerging romance  leads one to imagine where her life could go, had she actively pursued the relationship, choosing career over romance, a courageous choice for the time period. Sang Eun Lee is always discreet in her discussions of sexual behavior, making the text appropriate reading for the classroom discussion. Only at the very end of the tale, when she meets him later they have both establish very different lives, does the reader realize how many factors were at play in her youth. The dinner scene reminds any serious reader of literature of the end of Willa Cather’s’ My Antonia in the heart- felt feeling and a sense of regret and confusion over their youthful actions and reactions.
In a similar light, the details of how painful the immigrant experience is for Sang Eun Lee and how random events shape her life continue to reinforce what types of challenges each immigrant faces. Her ever-changing relationship with her sponsors, and their family, emerges to show how hard one must work to negotiate the unspoken cultural differences we meet in a multi cultural society- an essential lesson for today’s students.
Grace Notes chronicles the quiet courage  involved in attempting to hold to the traditional values of the Korean family, while trying to embrace the new world. The historic, cultural, sociological and literary merits of Grace Notes make it a great choice for engaging students unfamiliar with a country prominent in today’s political  events and financial future.

What a Story! by Sissy, “Sissy” (Southern California)

What a story! I cannot imagine anybody’s life in Korea during the war. But to have been a child at that time, with such musical talent and ambition and to have had the strength and courage to survive and then to immigrate to America! I read the book cover to cover with nary a break and came away with a lot of historical knowledge and with a great amount of respect for Sang.

This is a wonderfully well-written and insightful memoir… E. Pierson

This is a wonderfully well-written and insightful memoir telling of the author’s interesting life, first in Korea and later in America. I was emotionally involved in her story from the beginning, especially in her detailed recollections of her challenging childhood in a war-torn country, growing up as the youngest child in a large prominent family. Equally enthralling was her journey to the United States and her honest portrayal of how she adapted to find her place here. I loved this book!

I greatly enjoyed this book. by K.O. Peterson (Orange County, CA)

I greatly enjoyed this book. I found the descriptions of Sang’s early life in Korea so informative and I got a good understanding of what life might be like in Korea, especially the competitive school system. I loved Sang’s description of her music education and her early music career. But I think my favorite parts were the passages about Sang’s emigration to the United States and her early adulthood, adjusting to American life, trying to find balance between her love of music and her desire for a traditional family. Korean Americans are such an important part of our society, especially in Southern California, and I feel like I have a little more insight into the experience of Korean American women.

Sang is a talented story-teller and she has chosen the perfect moments of her life to tell her greater story. I think anyone would enjoy this book.

Reader Review, 이 창순, Retired pastor, Wilshire United Methodist church

Grace Notes 독후감

아름다운 삶은 하나님이 주신 본래의 모습을 찾아가는 모습이라고 믿습니다. 자유가 우리에게 중요한 이유도 여기에 있습니다.

그런데 우리의 역사를 보면, 이념, 종교적 교리, 또는 사회 제도나 문화까지도 인간을 지배하기 위한 수단으로 사용한 일이 많았습니다.

중세기 르네상스 운동은 바로 그런 종교적 탄압에서 벗어나 자유를 선언한 인간 승리의 역사라고 생각합니다. 그리고 예수께서는 그 선구자라고 저는 믿습니다.

사람의 병을 고쳐 준다는 일은 인간사 중에서 가장 아름다운 일일 것입니다.

그러나 예수께서 안식일에 그런 일을 했다는 것을 바리새파 사람들은 문제 삼아 시비를 걸었습니다.

거기에 대해서 예수님께서는 “안식일도 사람을 위해서 있는 것이다.”라고 선언하심으로, 가장 아름답고 중요한 것은 인간생명이며, 그 생명은 사랑으로 인해서 더욱 아름다워진다고 믿습니다.

상은씨의 책에서 저는 무엇보다도 하나님께서 베풀어주신 자신의 삶을 가장 소중히 여기고 행복과 진실을 추구해 나가는데 용감하고, 열정적인데 대해서 감탄을 했습니다.

그리고 종교적인 교리나 문화 또는 사회제도의 한계를 극복하고 삶의 아름다운 모습을 그대로 만들어가는 그 눈물겨운 노력들을 보면서 존경심을 가졌습니다.

인간의 행복과 자유 그리고 진실을 부정하는 어떤 세력도 받아드릴 수 없다는 것이 저의 소신이며 이런 생활철학으로 평생 목회를 했습니다.

United Methodist 은퇴목사

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