This fast-paced story will likely compel its readers to learn more about North Korea after finishing it

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EVERY FALLING STAR

THE TRUE STORY OF HOW I SURVIVED AND ESCAPED NORTH KOREA

A pampered son of the elite survives a nightmarish ordeal in this page-turner of a memoir.

Sungju Lee’s carefree life, playing with his rare pedigreed dog and watching cartoons, comes to an abrupt end at age 11 when his family is banished to a remote seaside town after his army officer father transgresses in unspecified ways. The mid-1990s famine that eventually killed over 1 million North Koreans soon takes its toll, as each of his parents leaves in search of food and does not return. Teaming up with several friends, Lee travels the country—stealing in markets; fighting other gangs for territory; smoking, drinking, and using opium; getting arrested and imprisoned; finding clients for a madam’s “nightflowers”; and losing two of his friends in brutal attacks. Straightforward prose prevents this harrowing tale from overwhelming readers, but at times it may emotionally distance them. Over time the boys shed their faith in the regime but never give up on dreams of reunion with their families. A short foreword offers readers some historical context, but the story’s emphasis on the dangers of daily survival mirrors Lee’s lack of awareness at the time of larger political events.

This fast-paced story will likely compel its readers to learn more about North Korea after finishing it . (Memoir. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2132-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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Small but mighty necessary reading.

THE NEW QUEER CONSCIENCE

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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