Novel finding

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Emily Swanson remembers vividly the first time she laid eyes on Marie Myung-Ok Lee's book, "Finding my Voice."

It was the mid-'90s, and her mom had brought it home from the Korean culture camp she and her sisters attended to connect with other Korean adoptees.

It was one of the first times she'd ever seen a Korean American teen — just like her — on the cover of a book.

An Asian woman holding a copy of a book.

"That was pretty big for me," she said. "I remember the book had a pretty large picture of the author on the back and I just thought that was the coolest thing. I think it was really cool that my mom got that book for us. It was definitely pretty one-of-a-kind."

The book, a coming-of-age novel written by Hibbing native Marie Myung-Ok Lee, is about Ellen Sung, a Korean American high school senior who lives in rural Minnesota.

She's a teenager navigating two worlds: Her immigrant parents don’t understand why she wants to focus on gymnastics and friends, thinking she should focus instead on college applications. Her classmates — most of whom are white — don't understand her parents' strict rules.

And in the middle, Ellen tries, as the title suggests, to find her own voice as a Korean daughter and an American teen.

"I could definitely relate to the feeling, 'Hey, I don't belong here,' " Swanson said. "And it's going to take some sort of change to make that feeling go away, to feel more like a part of something."

When "Finding My Voice" was published in 1992, it was credited as one of the first contemporary young adult books to center on an Asian American protagonist. Now, 30 years later, it's getting into the hands of a new generation of readers, with a third printing — and a reminder, once again, of the power of seeing a glimmer of oneself on the pages.

In Ellen's life, Swanson saw echoes of her own: Trying to find her own community, and friends who could relate to her experiences as an adoptee and as a person of color. The book offered, in some ways, comfort.

"The book was a really important reminder [that] this is where you came from; there’s people who are in that same boat," she said. "It did feel very real, even though it's a fiction book."

Nearly three decades after the book was published, Lee is still hearing from readers about how much it has meant to them to see Asian American stories — and to giving voice to their experiences with discrimination, prejudice and identity.

And the book continues to touch a nerve.

"The more voices we have, the more rounded out the complex vision we have as us as human beings," she said. "And I'm sorry to say, especially given the last four years, having to humanize ourselves is kind of an ongoing task."

But while she's grateful that readers continue to identify with her work, Lee said she has mixed feelings about its continued relevance, at a time in which COVID-19 has raised specters of anti-Asian rhetoric and xenophobia.

Sarah Park Dahlen, a professor at St. Catherine University, said one of the reasons why the book continues to maintain a grip on readers is because it gives their experiences a voice, even now.

"It was deeply uncomfortable for me to read the racist parts of 'Finding My Voice,' because I know how real that situation is," said Park, who specializes in children's literature, storytelling and social justice. "It's really what happens to us and so I think that’s one of the reasons why this book has lasted, [is] because Marie Lee is telling the truth about what we go through.”

Lee said it was important to her to portray the breadth of what Asian Americans experience, from model minority stereotyping to racism and bullying. She remembers how it felt being among the few people of color in Hibbing. The book allowed her to give voice to those experiences.

"I don't feel that the themes are ever really going to go away, particularly things like racism," Lee added. "Kids today are so much better informed and more self aware."

"Finding My Voice" navigates its teenage protagonist's exploration of identity, but it also explores the acts of prejudice, discrimination and racism she experiences — from microaggressions to physical violence.

"Anti-Asian racism also includes violence," Lee said. "That is definitely something that I wanted to include as this whole experience for this person."

And while the book is not autobiographical, Lee said it draws on some of the experiences she had, growing up on the Iron Range.

One reader, stunned after first reading the book, felt those themes sting.

Melanie Hooper, 57, graduated from Hibbing High School with Lee in 1982. She said she recalled the book being well-received by most community members when it came out a decade later. But for Hooper, a white woman, it was a bittersweet lesson to learn that one of her classmates had experienced such hate and prejudice while living there.

A white woman holding a copy of a book.

Hooper said she wished she had known about it, at the time.

"I think people need to know what has transpired and what has happened, and maybe they’d have a different understanding and appreciation for other ethnic backgrounds," she said. "Hate is not something you're born with. Hate is something that's taught."

Since moving back to Hibbing in the 1990s, Hooper said she hasn't seen too much change in her hometown. But she still has hope. A group she's a part of, Voices for Ethnic and Multicultural Awareness of Northern Minnesota, has been advocating for racial equity in places within the Iron Range.

"We have got to stop this teaching of not loving one another, no matter who you are," Hooper said. "I really think that people need to understand that it happened here, too. This book will show you how it affected this young woman."

And now, "Finding My Voice" is now making its way into the hands of a new generation, part of a growing canon of works for young readers written by authors of color.

That includes children’s books like Joanna Ho’s “Eyes That Kiss The Corners,” which celebrates the physical appearance of Asian eye shapes. And historical novels like Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko,” which tells a Korean family’s generational story, from early 20th century Korea to modern-day Japan.

Literary experts say stories like these matter, particularly for kids growing up in small towns — just like the main character, Ellen, the only Korean American student in her rural Minnesota high school.

"Especially if you are growing up in a small community where you are the only person — that there is no one to talk to about how to find your own voice and being able to speak out or even turn inward, to use your own voice to imagine how to navigate white supremacy,” said Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, a St. Olaf College creative writing professor and director of the college's Race and Ethnic Studies program.

"Books are absolutely crucial when you don't have communities where you can have those kinds of conversations."

Emily Swanson was thankful to have a book like "Finding My Voice" when she was growing up. With more choices available on bookshelves, she said, she’s excited to see what comes next.

And she’s looking forward to eventually buying a copy for her 5-year-old niece.

“I definitely would like to get the book when she gets old enough to read something like that,” Swanson said. “I just think it’s really good. It’s a really opportune time.”

In the meantime, she said, she plans on dusting off the book and giving it another read.

Hannah Yang is MPR News’ newest regional news reporter. She covers the communities south of the Minnesota River in southwestern Minnesota, from the South Dakota border all the way to Mankato and south to Iowa. She’s new to the region, and would love to hear your stories. Share news tips, ideas or just say hello at @HannahMYang on Twitter, or email her at [email protected].

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Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy

How important is reading fiction in socializing school children? Researchers at The New School in New York City have found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.

Emanuele Castano, a social psychologist, along with PhD candidate David Kidd conducted five studies in which they divided a varying number of participants (ranging from 86 to 356) and gave them different reading assignments: excerpts from genre (or popular) fiction, literary fiction, nonfiction or nothing. After they finished the excerpts the participants took a test that measured their ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions. The researchers found, to their surprise, a significant difference between the literary- and genre-fiction readers.

When study participants read non-fiction or nothing, their results were unimpressive. When they read excerpts of genre fiction, such as Danielle Steel’s The Sins of the Mother, their test results were dually insignificant. However, when they read literary fiction, such as The Round House by Louise Erdrich, their test results improved markedly—and, by implication, so did their capacity for empathy. The study was published October 4 in Science.

The results are consistent with what literary criticism has to say about the two genres—and indeed, this may be the first empirical evidence linking literary and psychological theories of fiction. Popular fiction tends to portray situations that are otherworldly and follow a formula to take readers on a roller-coaster ride of emotions and exciting experiences. Although the settings and situations are grand, the characters are internally consistent and predictable, which tends to affirm the reader’s expectations of others. It stands to reason that popular fiction does not expand the capacity to empathize.

Literary fiction, by contrast, focuses more on the psychology of characters and their relationships. “Often those characters’ minds are depicted vaguely, without many details, and we’re forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations,” Kidd says. This genre prompts the reader to imagine the characters’ introspective dialogues. This psychological awareness carries over into the real world, which is full of complicated individuals whose inner lives are usually difficult to fathom. Although literary fiction tends to be more realistic than popular fiction, the characters disrupt reader expectations, undermining prejudices and stereotypes. They support and teach us values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.

The results suggest that reading fiction is a valuable socializing influence. The study data couldinform debates over how much fiction should be included in educational curricula and whether reading programs should be implemented in prisons, where reading literary fiction might improve inmates’ social functioning and empathy. Castano also hopes the finding will encourage autistic people to engage in more literary fiction, in the hope it could improve their ability to empathize without the side effects of medication.

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Hilar lymphadenopathy, a novel finding in the setting of coronavirus disease (COVID-19): a case report

Journal of Medical Case Reportsvolume 14, Article number: 124 (2020) Cite this article

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As the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has progressed, computed tomography has emerged as an integral part of the diagnosis alongside reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction assays. Frequently encountered imaging findings include peripheral airspace consolidations; bilateral ground-glass opacities; and, less commonly, cavitation. Hilar lymphadenopathy is a rarely reported finding in the setting of COVID-19.

Case presentation

A 73-year-old Caucasian woman presented to our hospital with fever and fatigue. She had a maximum body temperature of 102.3 °F with lymphopenia and thrombocytopenia. She was diagnosed with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection on the basis of a positive result from a reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction of a nasopharyngeal swab sample. Contrast-enhanced chest computed tomography revealed multifocal, subpleural ground-glass opacities with nodular consolidations bilaterally. Computed tomography also demonstrated atypical bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy, a rarely reported imaging feature of COVID-19. Chest computed tomography 1 month before the presentation did not show focal consolidations or lymphadenopathy. This indicated that the findings were due to the patient’s severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection. She received 5 days of oral hydroxychloroquine and experienced resolution of her symptoms.


Chest computed tomography has been used extensively to diagnose and characterize the distinguishing radiological findings associated with viral pneumonia. It has emerged as an integral part of the diagnosis of COVID-19 alongside reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction assays. Clinicians must be aware of uncommon clinical and radiological findings in order to diagnose this entity. Hilar lymphadenopathy is commonly seen with fungal infections, mycobacterial infections, and sarcoidosis. An extensive literature review found that bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy has not been reported in the setting of COVID-19. More data are needed to establish the clinical impact of this novel finding.

Peer Review reports


The World Health Organization declared coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic in March 2020. Though the incidence of the disease has drastically dropped in China, it is rising worldwide [1]. Coronavirus is an encapsulated ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus, a novel coronavirus named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which was identified as the culprit of a cluster of lower respiratory tract illnesses in Wuhan, China. A study suggested that it has two strains: type S and type L [2]. The understanding of the disease, its transmission, and its treatment are still evolving. COVID-19 can range from being asymptomatic to a wide variety of severe symptoms [3]. Several observational studies suggested that fever, malaise, dry cough, and dyspnea are the most common presenting symptoms [4]. As the outbreak of COVID-19 has progressed, so have the methodologies used in its diagnostic workup. A chest computed tomographic (CT) scan has quickly emerged as an integral part of the diagnosis alongside reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays [5]. The most commonly reported CT findings in patients with COVID-19 are bilateral ground-glass opacities [6]. In another study, CT manifestations were peripheral airspace consolidations in one-third of the cases. Less common findings include pleural effusion, pericardial effusion, cavitation, air bronchograms, and pneumothorax [7]. These data are helpful for clinicians to gain an understanding of a wide spectrum of imaging findings in patients with COVID-19. Hilar lymphadenopathy is a common radiological finding associated with fungal infections, mycobacterial infections, and sarcoidosis. However, it is rarely seen in viral pneumonia. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting healthcare and economic systems worldwide, it is imperative to detect the disease earlier in the course before complications involving acute hypoxic respiratory failure warranting invasive mechanical ventilation arise. Characteristic CT scan findings, alongside RT-PCR and antibody testing, help clinicians diagnose COVID-19. None of these modalities can be used as a single tool to diagnose SARS-CoV-2 infection. An extensive literature review found that acute bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy has not been reported in the setting of COVID-19 [6, 8]. It is important to report atypical imaging findings to establish their frequency and association with disease severity and outcomes.

Case presentation

A 73-year-old Caucasian woman with a past medical history of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, pulmonary embolism, and rheumatoid arthritis came to our emergency department with complaints of fever, chills, generalized weakness, and decreased appetite of 1 day’s duration. Her home medication list included amlodipine 10 mg, pantoprazole 40 mg, rivaroxaban 20 mg, and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid 1000 mg. The patient had a remote history of rheumatoid arthritis, for which she was not taking any medication. She had quit smoking almost 30 years ago and admitted to one or two glasses of alcohol consumption occasionally. In the emergency department, she was febrile with a maximum body temperature of 102.3 °F. Her blood pressure was 157/73 mmHg, heart rate was 81 beats/minute, respiratory rate was 16 breaths/minute, and pulse oxygen saturation was 96% on room air. At admission, she was alert and oriented and did not seem to be in any distress. Her pulse was regular; her heart sounds (S1, S2) were audible without any murmur or additional heart sounds; and no lower extremity edema was observed during her physical examination. Her lungs were grossly clear with equal air entry without any wheeze or rhonchi. Her abdomen was soft, and bowel sounds were present. Her hematological workup showed leukopenia (white blood cell count, 3400/mm3), anemia (hemoglobin, 10.5 g/dl), thrombocytopenia (platelets, 163,000/mm3), and elevated inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein (66.8 mg/L) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (74 mm/hour). The result of multiplex respiratory viral polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was negative for respiratory tract viral infections. Liver function tests, including aspartate aminotransferase (26 U/L) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT 8 U/L), and a basic metabolic panel, including blood urea nitrogen (16 mg/dl) and creatinine (1.03 mg/dl), were within the normal ranges. The result of a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab sample for SARS-CoV-2 was positive by RT-PCR, and a diagnosis of COVID-19 was established. Blood cultures and sputum culture did not show any bacterial or fungal growth. The patient started developing a dry cough and respiratory distress requiring supplemental oxygen via a nasal cannula (up to 6 L/minute) on the second day of admission with sporadic rhonchi detected by physical examination. Contrast-enhanced chest CT revealed multifocal, subpleural ground-glass opacities with nodular consolidations bilaterally (Fig. 1a, b). A CT scan also demonstrated atypical bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy, a rarely reported CT finding in COVID-19 (Fig. 2a). Chest CT one month before the current presentation demonstrated no focal consolidations or lymphadenopathy (Fig. 2b). The patient received hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) 200 mg and azithromycin 500 mg orally for 5 days alongside supportive treatment with acetaminophen and supplemental oxygenation via nasal cannula. Her fever resolved, and her respiratory status improved. At discharge, she was breathing without any distress on room air.

Contrast-enhanced chest computed tomography reveals multifocal, subpleural ground-glass attenuation opacities (arrow) (a) with nodular consolidations bilaterally (arrow) (b)

Full size image

a Atypical bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy (arrow), a novel finding of coronavirus disease 2019. b Chest computed tomography 1 month before presentation demonstrates no focal consolidations and no lymphadenopathy

Full size image


Chest CT has been used extensively not only to diagnose but also to characterize the distinguishing radiological findings associated with viral pneumonia. SARS-CoV-2 is diagnosed by COVID-19 symptomatology and RT-PCR with NP swabs. As the outbreak of COVID-19 has progressed, CT alongside RT-PCR has been used broadly to diagnose COVID-19 [9]. There is convincing evidence that viral load is high in NP samples, and RT-PCR can have false-positive and false-negative results. If there is a high clinical suspicion, then repeat RT-PCR with resampling from another site is recommended [10]. There have been patients with a negative result of RT-PCR but whose CT scan was suggestive of viral pneumonia. Later, those patients had positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 [11, 12]. Yan Li and Liming Xia suggested that CT scans can be used as a rapid diagnostic tool to diagnose COVID-19 on the basis of a low rate of missed diagnoses [13]. This argues in favor of chest imaging earlier in the course with clinical suspicion of viral pneumonia. Frequently encountered imaging findings include peripheral airspace consolidations and bilateral ground-glass opacities; less common associations include cavitation and air bronchograms. To our knowledge, hilar lymphadenopathy has not been reported in the setting of COVID-19. RT-PCR of the NP swab sample is the preferred and recommended screening test worldwide. However, false-negative results may occur because of inadequate viral load or impaired sampling techniques. In these circumstances, chest CT scans and SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin M antibody testing can significantly aid in the diagnostic workup. CT scan findings can vary on the day of imaging, and some studies even suggested obtaining a repeat CT scan to rule out worsening of the disease [14]. Clinicians must be aware of rare clinical and radiological findings in order to diagnose this entity. In the absence of effective antiviral therapy and persistent evidence-based guidelines, HCQ and zinc were initially used for COVID-19. Interleukin-6 inhibitors are used against the hyperinflammatory state because of the proposed cytokine storm syndrome. Immunoglobulin G antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 start developing after 2 weeks of disease onset, and convalescent plasma from the recovered patient population is being studied in compassionate trials at different centers. The efficacy of these medications and therapeutic interventions is yet to be established. Calcified lymph nodes have been reported in the late stages of alphaherpesvirus pneumonia [15]. However, bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy has not been reported in the setting of COVID-19. Reporting and recognizing the rare imaging findings will help clinicians to understand their frequency and association with the disease. Follow-up imaging should be pursued to evaluate the persistence or resolution of hilar lymphadenopathy. More information with long-term follow-up is required to establish the importance and clinical implications of our findings.


Chest CT has been used extensively to diagnose and characterize the distinguishing radiological findings associated with viral pneumonia. It has emerged as an integral part of the diagnosis of COVID-19 alongside RT-PCR. Clinicians must be aware of uncommon clinical and radiological findings in order to diagnose this entity. Hilar lymphadenopathy is commonly seen with fungal infections, mycobacterial infections, and sarcoidosis. In an extensive literature review, bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy was not reported in the setting of COVID-19. Recognizing rare imaging findings will help clinicians understand their frequency and association with disease severity. Follow-up imaging should be pursued to evaluate the persistence or resolution of hilar lymphadenopathy in patients with COVID-19.

Availability of data and materials


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The authors thank Ikwinder Preet Kaur, MD, and Wael Ghali, MD, for their assistance.

Author information


  1. Monmouth Medical Center, An Affiliate of RWJ/Barnabas Health System, 300 2nd Avenue, Long Branch, NJ, 07740, USA

    Mohsin Sheraz Mughal, Rameez Rehman, Ramy Osman, Nathan Kan & Margaret H. Eng

  2. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

    Hasan Mirza


MSM wrote the primary manuscript. RR and NK helped with the radiological data. HM and RO helped with the literature review. MHE revised and critically reviewed the final manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mohsin Sheraz Mughal.

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Five Books That Changed My Life - Books to Read Before 2022 w/ Anthony ONeal

Ellen Oh’s New Middle Grade Novel Is Not a Fantasy

By Ellen Oh

There’s a Korean word that means to suffer through something: chama. Considered a noble attribute, it’s the act of stoically gritting your teeth and enduring the hardship. Some say that Koreans are the world’s champions of chama, a trait shaped through the country’s long history of being invaded and colonized. Remember the stony-faced dad in the movie “Parasite”? That’s chama.

Junie, the Korean-American protagonist of Ellen Oh’s middle grade novel “Finding Junie Kim,” is a shy seventh grader who likes to draw and keep low-key company with her two best friends. But her life is being made miserable by the racist goons at her school — in particular, the odious Tobias, who regularly taunts her as a “dog eater” and a “North Korean commie.” When Junie’s friends decide to form a social justice club to stand up against the bullies, Junie instinctively shrinks from the fight. Pulling herself inward “like a sad turtle,” she withdraws from her friends, keeping her suffering to herself (chama!) and eventually sinking into depression. It’s only when Junie begins spending time with her grandparents, survivors of the Korean War, that she discovers her inner strength and a deeper understanding of friendship, family and courage.

Oh (“Prophecy,” “The Dragon Egg Princess”) is best known for fantasy books, but this novel is firmly rooted in real-life events, from the experiences of Incheon residents at the breakout of the Korean War to the MAGA movement in Junie’s Maryland suburb, which gives the book historical substance as well as an urgency that speaks to this moment of anti-Asian intolerance. I especially appreciate Oh’s choice to make Junie a third-generation Korean-American — a kid who’s grown up speaking English and eating waffles, with parents who themselves were born in the States. While the distinction may not seem important to some readers, one of the hard truths many Asian-Americans have learned in the past year is that assimilation guarantees no exemption from racism. As Junie says of an intolerant classmate, “Even though I was born and raised here, I’ll never be truly American to her.”

Still, the strength of “Finding Junie Kim” doesn’t lie in Junie’s story, which, it must be said, suffers from Junie’s colorless personality, a dearth of humor and some painfully expository dialogue that feels straight out of the guidance counselor’s office. It’s the riveting stories told by Junie’s grandparents that give the novel its power.


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