Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Book Review Club (February 2018)

Welcome to the Feb 2018 edition of The Book Review Club. THIS MONTH MARKS OUR NINE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY! Sorry. I couldn't help but yell. That's a lot of reading and reviewing! Click below my post for links to good reviews of good books! And Happy Belated Groundhog Day!

by Hyeonseo Lee (memoir, North Korea)

I gravitate toward books about North Korea. I visited the DMZ and looked across into North Korea. One of my sisters has traveled twice to North Korea to help with food aid. I always wonder if our daughter, adopted as a baby from South Korea, might have relatives in the North.

The Girl with Seven Names is Hyeonsea Lee's memoir of her escape from North Korea to China. She eventually made her way to a life in South Korea. Lee left N. Korea as a seventeen year old!

This book is divided into three sections: Lee's childhood in North Korea, Lee's escape to China and South Korea, Lee's efforts to get her brother and mother to defect to South Korea. Each section is equally riveting.

Lee talks of witnessing her first public execution at age seven. She describes the weekly "life purification sessions" where "everyone took turns to stand up, accuse someone and confess something." She talks about the racism and isolation she faced as an illegal North Korean in China. She bribed officials with the little money she had. She worried constantly about being turned in and then repatriated. She feared for the family she left behind.

Lee had to come to grips with the North Korean propaganda she grew up with. Think of all the unlearning. She fell in love with an American despite the well-known North Korean saying: "Just as a jackal cannot become a lamb, so American imperialists cannot change their rapacious nature."

You may have seen Lee's Ted Talk. Millions have watched it. The link is ... here.

I like the Ted talk. It's 12 or 13 minutes. But the book has so much detail. And it's all those big and little details I love. Such as: "I wanted to be an accordionist. It's a popular instrument in North Korea and a woman who could play it well had no difficulty making a living." A woman can earn a living playing the accordion in North Korea. Who knew?!

I'lll end with this: "People are probably asking themselves why a country such as mine still exists in the world. Perhaps it would be even harder for them to understand that I still love my country and miss it very much. I miss its snowy mountains in winter, the smell of kerosene and burning coal. I miss my childhood there...I should be comfortable with my new life, but I'm still the girl from Hyesan who longs to eat noodles with her family at their favorite restaurant."

(Dear FCC: Keeping it short and sweet: Bought for Kindle)

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!


                         by Mark Twain and Philip Stead with Illustrations by Erin Stead


Margy Lutz: ARTEMIS by Andy Weird (sci fi)

Ray Potthoff: FRONT by John Sanford (mystery/thriller)

Sarah Laurence: PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee (historical)


                                                  by Kurt Andersen (social commentary)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER by Lawrence Anthony
                                                             with Graham Spence (memoir)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson (memoir)

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!


Lucy said...

Wow. What a story! It sounds like a moving and complex. Thanks for reviewing.

Sarah Laurence said...

What a heartbreaking excerpt! I can see why you were drawn to this memoir, especially now. I will listen to her TED talk later. Thanks for hosting!

Powell River Books said...

Sarah also reviewed a book with a Korean setting. I really do need to read more in that area. Congratulations on your anniversary. Yes, it represents a lot of reading and reviewing, but I’m sure all of us read way more than we review. - Margy

Jenn Jilks said...

I am so glad that people are writing books like these, Barrie. Thanks for hosting and reviewing!

Jody Feldman said...

So interesting! And thanks for the link to the TED talk!

troutbirder said...

Fascinating story. The Hermit Kingdom and interesting yet tragic history....

Linda McLaughlin said...

Sounds like a fascinating book. Great review.