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NORTH KOREA'S HIDDEN REVOLUTION

HOW THE INFORMATION UNDERGROUND IS TRANSFORMING A CLOSED SOCIETY

An original, authentic take on the fissures developing behind North Korea’s totalitarian facade.

A crisp, dramatic examination of how technology and human ingenuity are undermining North Korea’s secretive dictatorship.

Baek, a fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, synthesizes diverse research, including her own monitored visits and interviews within the hidden diaspora of successful defectors, to produce a comprehensible academic study attuned to the human toll of North Korea’s oppressive regime. Despite the authorities’ determination to punish any rebellion, the author argues, “over the past two decades there have been cracks in the state’s control over the dissemination of information among citizens.” A horrific famine in the 1990s necessitated tolerance for informal markets, which later established smuggling routes for new technologies like USB drives and smartphones. This both fed and was amplified by the stream of defections to China and South Korea, which continued in spite of the cruelties the regime directed toward defectors’ families. Baek looks at the challenges faced by those who flee: “When defectors cross into China, their minds are opened and their worlds change.” Her interviews with such individuals buttress her thesis that the new wave of information sharing serves as inspiration, despite the state’s intrusive surveillance. She documents smuggling methodologies and the material that North Koreans desire, ranging from South Korean pop music and films to religious texts and Voice of America–style news broadcasts as well as Japanese DVD players and inexpensive radios, all available on the black market. Since North Korean society has a strict caste system, Baek argues that this amplifies the forbidden desires among less favored citizens to question the government and ultimately pursue a better life, despite the strong tendency to conform within an authoritarian state. Baek’s writing is clear and patiently structured, which makes her interviewees’ accounts of brutal treatment and the inner revelations caused by smuggled media seem more urgently affecting.

An original, authentic take on the fissures developing behind North Korea’s totalitarian facade.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-300-21781-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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