On a long flight to Korea, I took the Park Sisters along to sweeten the tedious ride. I was barreling my way toward an international children’s literature festival where I was scheduled to talk about Korean American literature and, of course, the sisters and their many titles were included in my intended presentation. Talk about synchronicity – Yangsook Choi, who illustrated the sisters’ kiddie title, Goodbye, 382 Shin Dang Dong, was also presenting at the festival! Clearly, I was long overdue to read the sisters’ May memoir!
More than an addiction, chocolate proved to be salvation for Big Sis Francie and Little Sis Ginger. When their beloved father died suddenly while only in his 50s, the sisters – always close – “grew Siamese.” Untethered and unsure of their futures, both daughters relied on each other, softening their intense loss with endless nibbles of chocolate. Still young women in their 20s – and enabled by a small inheritance from their father and the buoying support of their mother – they decided to invest in a new life together: Chocolate Chocolate opened for business on January 11, 1984.
Over the decades that followed, Big Sis and Little Sis really grew up. When things got tough, the sisters ate chocolate. When business improved, they celebrated with chocolate. They suffered through love affairs, difficult decisions, evil landlords, and the fickle economy. They wrote books and stories, together and separately, and fed their literary souls. They gathered an extended family among their customers, including the General, the Kahlua Lady, Our Girl Friday, Dr. Zhivago, and the Bulldog – all of whom helped to turn Chocolate Chocolate into quite a sweet haven.
Interwoven into the story of a ‘little shop that could,’ is a family saga that ensures that the book is something far more than just empty calories. As a de facto companion title to the sisters’ To Swim Across the World, a novel based on their parents’ lives in war-torn Korea and their eventual immigration to the U.S., the sisters’ imbue the family history here with greater depth and details, from the Milk Boy who was their father to the their stalwart mother who never gave up hoping to be reunited someday with her own missing mother.
Pick this up for the sweetness – could that cover not be more chic-ly inviting? Read and appreciate it for the resonating, inspiring, delicious family story. And I can guarantee you’ll never look at chocolate – especially the Hershey Bar (and not for any reason you think you can guess!) – quite the same way again …