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

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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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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Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author.

CONTINUUM

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Deaf, trans artist Man meditates on his journey and identity in this brief memoir.

Growing up in conservative central Pennsylvania was tough for the 21-year-old Deaf, genderqueer, pansexual, and biracial (Chinese/White Jewish) author. He describes his gender and sexual identity, his experiences of racism and ableism, and his desire to use his visibility as a YouTube personality, model, and actor to help other young people like him. He is open and vulnerable throughout, even choosing to reveal his birth name. Man shares his experiences of becoming deaf as a small child and at times feeling ostracized from the Deaf community but not how he arrived at his current Deaf identity. His description of his gender-identity development occasionally slips into a well-worn pink-and-blue binary. The text is accompanied and transcended by the author’s own intriguing, expressionistic line drawings. However, Man ultimately falls short of truly insightful reflection or analysis, offering a mostly surface-level account of his life that will likely not be compelling to readers who are not already fans. While his visibility and success as someone whose life represents multiple marginalized identities are valuable in themselves, this heartfelt personal chronicle would have benefited from deeper introspection.

Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author. (Memoir. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-22348-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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