A courageous tale of physical and mental endurance sure to bring to further light conditions in North Korea.

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STARS BETWEEN THE SUN AND MOON

ONE WOMAN'S LIFE IN NORTH KOREA AND ESCAPE TO FREEDOM

One woman’s life in, and desperate escape from, North Korea.

North Korea is so removed from the commerce of the digital age that when a story emerges from behind the candied gloss of government-produced video clips, the world eagerly pays attention. Hence the recent spate of memoirs from those brave souls who have escaped the restrictive country. Here, with the help of award-winning journalist McClelland, Jang (the name she later chose when safely in Canada) reveals the trials of growing up in 1970s Chosun (another term for North Korea) for one born into a family out of favor with the regime. At a young age, Jang learned that her mother’s grandfather and uncle had committed the worst atrocity possible by sympathizing with Americans during the war and fleeing to the south afterward. This action banned subsequent generations from ever joining the party and relegated them to harsh living conditions. Jang repeatedly describes the widespread poverty and starvation that were constants of daily life in this caste society. Her hunger was so deep that at one point she swallowed a handful of uncooked rice she stole to supplement a diet of weeds. In fact, scarcity of food was one of the main contributing factors that impelled Jang to slip back and forth to China to trade seafood for other staples to help support her family. And yet, when Kim Il-sung died, Jang and her mother didn’t think twice about taking earnings from a day’s sale of hard-boiled eggs to purchase chrysanthemums to honor his passing. Such ironies of North Korean life blaze through this refugee’s memoir. Despite being a survivor’s tale of unimagined affliction involving human trafficking, rape, imprisonment, the loss of a child, and exile, it is riddled with regime-inspired themes of guilt and self-deprecation. The book includes a translator’s note and an afterword by Korea-Pacific Studies professor Stephan Haggard.

A courageous tale of physical and mental endurance sure to bring to further light conditions in North Korea.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24922-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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

NIGHT

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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