Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds

By Korean Quarterly

Paula Yoo’s Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds is a biographical story which evokes human endurance, resilience and triumph over justice. Her story recounts the amazing journey of a young Korean American boy growing up in 1930s California, which, at that time in history, enacted racist policies in reaction to immigrants from Asian countries. Sammy Lee may have done the deed in sixteen seconds that made him the first Asian American to win a gold medal in the Olympics (in fact, he won two), but his whole life has been an example to live by… Following both his father’s dream and his own dream, this extraordinary young man becomes a doctor, and, at age 28, an Olympic champion. Illustrator Dom Lee’s use of subdued, calm tones takes us back to the 1930s and parallels the serious tone of the story. Evoking our protagonist Sammy’s optimism and hope, Lee also splatters in tones of blues and reds. Sammy is not just a hero to immigrants or Asians — he is a true U.S. champion, clothed in red, white and blue, as he receives his gold medal.