Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review! "Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea"

As soon as I saw this title, I knew it would be one of my all-time favorites, a hunch immediately confirmed as I began reading. Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea (link is to the Kindle version I downloaded) is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read, and in my opinion, pretty well-written and well-researched—no small feat when dealing with North Korea!

I think that one of the main reasons I love reading and travel are for the chance to learn how others live. This book provided amazing arm-chair travel to a closed country and told the poignant stories of several different families who have now defected to South Korea or China.

Two of many, many things that I learned:

1)      This is the first time I’ve heard any North Korean “talk”. As interested as I’ve always been in the country, it had been one faceless mass of suffering humanity… Until now! The peoples’ ingenuity and resourcefulness in the face of so many challenges made me see them in a whole new light. They are human, like you and me.

2)      My mother always said, “Unless you are content being single, you will not be content married.” I think other situations could be filled in the blanks of this same phrase. I found it intriguing how the very same individuals who had many social or emotional or identity issues in North Korea were followed by the very same problems OUTside North Korea. In the same way, those who were content under the NK regime are still content in their new homes with new challenges.

It was pretty shocking to read to what extent NK's “Great Leaders” set themselves up as god to the people, even being referred to in the Korean word for "god". Although devastating to the people still trapped, it was heartening to read that just enough cracks have appeared in recent years in the “bubble” that is North Korea that the brainwashing tactics aren’t as effective as they were back in the first few decades of this staunchly communist country. Author Barbara Demick states that the people now clearly realize that their government is the source of all their woes, but it's an as yet unspoken understanding.

I could have devoured the whole book in just a few sessions but usually only had 10 or 15 minute snippets while feeding the baby or waiting for her to fall asleep. So glad for my Kindle here in Bolivia! :)  


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