Deceived, Distressed by the Truth They’ve Been Withholding

Nothing to Envy Book Cover Nothing to Envy
Barbara Demick
Non-fiction
Fourth Estate
2010

nothing_to_envyNothing to Envy is Barbara Demick’s rightly praised history of North Korea in the early to late 1990s, as experienced by North Koreans.  Demick spent years interviewing North Korean defectors living in China and South Korea to compile the book.  Through their stories, Demick follows the crises in the isolated state that started developing with the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Many political commentators assumed this would lead to the collapse of North Korea as well.  As of time of writing, this has clearly not yet happened.

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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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