Blind Revenge on the Blameless Victim

First They Killed my Father
Loung Ung
Non-fiction
HarperCollins
2000

first_they_killed_my_fatherI didn’t much like being in Cambodia the first time I went there in early 2014.  Led by the most unbearable tour guide imaginable* in a small group made up mostly of middle-aged Australian couples with whom the only thing I had in common was a nationality, I experienced what in retrospect was most likely culture shock. And for a time I wondered if it was because of the effects of the Khmer Rouge genocide on the country. Such a savage and profound event leaves scars on people who endure it, and on the nation itself.

Nonetheless, even though my mother gave me First They Killed My Father to read before we left on this trip, I resisted it.  I didn’t want to read misery porn, which any biography about the Khmer Rouge must surely be.  It took these last few years for me to finally work up to reading it.  Along with a little assistance from a Dateline special and Sue Perkins travelling along the Mekong. Continue reading

The Silence is Illusion

Without You, There is No Us
Suki Kim
Memoir, politics
Crown
October 2014

without_you_there_is_no_usI first came across Suki Kim as a panellist at the exceedingly awkward “Inside North Korea” talk at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival.  I have written about this panel in more detail before, but Kim’s frustration at her co-panellists, and at the situation in and around North Korea generally, was as palpable there as it is in this book.  Without You, There is No Us is a memoir of her time as a missionary English teacher at an elite university outside of Pyongyang.  It is an incisive and self-reflective memoir.

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The Beatings will Continue Until Morale Improves

DEAR LEADER
Jang Jin-Sung (trans. Shirley Lee; Rider, 2014) ISBN: 9781846044212 Dear Leader

Jang Jin-Sung’s* memoir of his time in and flight from North Korea is a valuable and urgent glimpse into the secret state around the turn of the millenium.  It shines a light on the plight of North Koreans within North Korea, and as refugees living under the threat of forced repatriation in China.  Most interestingly, in my opinion, it provides a glimpse into the daily lives of North Koreans through the eyes of a man who was a true loyalist to the Supreme Leader or “General”, Kim Jong-il.

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