07 October, 2016

The girl with seven names: a North Korean defector's story by Hyeonseo Lee; with David John

“The ruling Kim. He is the only figure in North Korea who exercises freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, his right not to be tortured, imprisoned, or executed without trial, and his right to proper healthcare and food.”
Imagine witnessing an execution at age seven. Imagine being forced to change your name seven times just to stay alive.
Here is an insight into one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships, from a woman who spent her childhood in one of its remote border towns until she made her daring escape at age 17.
It could be said that the author grew up in a relatively comfortable, environment surrounded by a loving and supportive family. Her father’s eventual fate, and a childhood spent attending school meetings where one  confessed guilt about something and accused others of the same, where portraits of the Leader had to adorn homes and be cleaned every day, ready for inspection by government officials in a bid to show loyalty to the party, makes a mockery of such a statement.
Twelve years after she fled “the best country in the world” (government indoctrination), first to China, and then to South Korea, Hyenseo returned to the North to help her family escape. 
Today she is married to an American and spends her time as a journalist and activist helping others in similarly distressed circumstances find their freedom.
You will be fascinated by this brave and courageous story of surviving the harshness of two defections, loss of self-worth and identity, and finding a new sense of purpose and belonging.

For another moving account of escape from North Korea, try In order to live by Yeonmi Park.
Author: Hyeonseo Lee; with David John
Reviewed by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library

Suneeta N particularly enjoys biographies, travel stories and reading authors from around the world. She loves a good discussion and believes that everybody has a story worth telling.

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