In Order to Live by Yeon-Mi Park

inordertolive

I have always been curious about North Korea, its people, their way of living, the autocratic Kim regime. I have read a few books/articles and it just increased my curiosity all the more. I am currently working in a South Korean company for almost 10 years now since I came here but North Korea is a very rare topic discussed among my colleagues.

In Order to Live is the memoir of Yeonmi Park as she and her mother escape North Korea in search of a better life. She tells of her family’s story as a child, the kind of life they lead, as well as the dictatorship in North Korea.

The book is divided into three parts: her life in North Korea, then in China and finally in South Korea.

Yeon-Mi mentioned the time after Russia and China put an end to their support for NK which greatly affected NK’s economy. Her father soon found himself selling whatever smuggled items he has in the black market. She also mentioned about songbun, the class groupings enforced by the NK government. Ms. Park’s paternal family used to belong to the “core” class, the highest class grouping, until one of her uncles was accused of raping a student where he was teaching. Since then, all related families were declassed to the lowest songbun.

About halfway through the book, their family’s focus was on China. As the days passed, it has became apparent that there is no future for their family in NK. It wasn’t easy to find a smuggler who will bring them to the NK-China border but as soon they found one, Ms. Park’s sister left first with her friend but gone missing. Ms. Park and her mother followed next leaving her father behind in hopes to find her sister and come back for her father after. Unfortunately, China, as they came to know, was a horrible place, too. They ended up in the nastiness of human trafficking, her mother was even raped in front of her.

Ms. Park and her mother eventually left China through Mongolia with the help of Christian missionaries. The rest of the book talked about the NIS and the Hanawon screening processes and how she and her mother adjusted to life in South Korea.

The writing wasn’t particularly beautiful but that’s okay. Let it not stop you from reading Ms. Park’s story. I encourage you to read this remarkable book and educate yourself through this eye-opening, although shattering, important story.

Quotable Quotes:

“We all have our own deserts. They may not be the same as my desert, but we all have to cross them to find a purpose in life and be free.”

“It amazed me how quickly a lie loses its power in the face of truth.”

“I inhaled books like other people breathe oxygen. I didn’t just read for knowledge or pleasure, I read to live.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

WWW Wednesday 09-Dec-2020

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam from Taking On A World of Words.

img_1384-0

As usual, just answer the three W questions:

  1. What did you recently finish reading?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Recently Finished

Currently Reading

Up Next

Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading this past week? I’d be delighted if you share your WWWs, too. Leave a link or share your lists on the comments section so I can check them all out!

Happy reading and keep safe, Homo sapiens!

Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova

maria-sharapova-unstoppable-book-cover-2017-0I am not a big fan of Maria Sharapova but I’m a big tennis fan. She won’t even be on my top five favorites but given that she’s one of the hottest tennis players and one of the most popular faces on tour, I am curious to know about her story and thought this book would make me understand why she behaves the way she does. Before reading this, I was already aware of her accomplishments, of the injuries she had and the doping incident which caused her being banned from the circuit. I wasn’t aware, however, of how everything started for her, what drives her to play, what inspires her, what motivates her.

Unstoppable is Maria Sharapova’s memoir. She’s from Russia but moved to the US to train when she was six years old together with her father, in hopes to become a tennis superstar someday as her father believes she will be. She’s won five Grand Slam titles to date. She became an overnight sensation when she beat Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final as a seventeen year old. The book tells Maria’s share of highs and lows, struggle and success. From winning tournaments and Grand Slams, her rivalry with Serena Williams (it wasn’t much of a rivalry I think since Serena always beat her… well okay, one-sided rivalry?), her shoulder injury and of course, the doping incident.

I wasn’t a big fan of Maria before I read this and still not after, however, I admire her determination more now. It’s good to know and understand her and her journey. She is an accomplished player and definitely have a story of her own to tell.

Whether you’re a tennis fan or not, penned down in simple language with Rich Cohen, this is worth your time reading.

Quotable Quotes:

“As hard as I practice, I have learned that doing nothing is just as important as doing everything.”

“You can’t control what people say about you and what they think about you. You can’t plan for bad luck. You can only work your hardest and do your best and tell the truth. In the end, it’s the effort that matters. The rest is beyond your control.”

“I know what losing does to you. I’d learned its lessons on tennis courts all over the world. It knocks you down but also builds you up. It teaches you humility and gives you strength. It makes you aware of your flaws, which you then must do your best to correct. In this way, it can actually make you better. You become a survivor. You learn that losing is not the end of the world.”

“What sets the great players apart from the good players? The good players win when everything is working. The great players win even when nothing is working even when the game is ugly; that is, when they are not great. Because no one can be great every day. Can you get it done on the ugly days, when you feel like garbage and the tank is empty?”

“There is no perfect justice, not in this world. You can’t control what people say about you and what they think about you. You can’t plan for bad luck. You can only work your hardest and do your best and tell the truth. In the end,it’s the effort that matters. The rest is beyond your control.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

Burned Alive by Souad

386990Burned Alive is the story of a 17-year old girl who calls herself Souad, uneducated, beaten and victim of honor killing, from one of the villages in the West Bank region.

Written in simple prose, Souad tells us the story of life in their village. She talked about how women are literally worth less than animals and that men hitting their wives and daughters are a normal occurrence there. Women are not allowed to speak and think for themselves. They’re not allowed to look at men and if they do, they’re branded as whores or “charmuta” in their language.

At 17 years of age, Souad was already considered old to not be married yet. The father has to arrange the marriages of his daughters from the eldest to the youngest. Souad hoped to get married as soon as possible but her sisters have to be married first. She soon fell in love with a man who took advantage of her believing he wants her, too. She then got pregnant and the man disappeared. Sex (and getting pregnant) before marriage is a grave dishonor for some (if not all) Muslim countries. And in places like Souad’s, it is punishable by death. The man who does the killing is considered a hero. And in Souad’s story, it was her brother-in-law. He poured gasoline on her and set her on fire. It’s a miracle that she survived with 90% of her body burned. And even more miraculous to have given birth all alone later in the hospital where she was left to die.

I’ve known a little about honor killing already since grade school so this subject is not really new to me anymore and I find this book as something that describes the difficult life of Muslim women in places like the West Bank. Despite the advances in women’s rights nowadays, there are still many who suffer from inequality all around the world. Many argue about the realness of this story but I’m of the opinion that this really happened, that these atrocities are real. There was a part in the book where Jacqueline, the humanitarian aid worker mentioned that she was told not to involve herself with Souad’s case because it is family matter and that honor killing is part of their culture/tradition and that they should respect that. But I think it’s facetious to say so as in this case because it is clearly an oppression disguised as culture/tradition. How can anyone, man or woman, accept such barbarism as “tradition”? Come on, stand up for yourself, argue with your parents, strive hard to make a living, fight with your boss, work your ass to achieve your dreams, at the very least, you’re free!

This is a quick read. It does shed light to the issue of honor killing in the West Bank. How very harshly and cruelly women are treated by men, even family. Culture is culture, traditions are traditions. And I know it’s difficult to change that. But I still think, it all still depends on the mentality of the people involved, regardless of gender.

Quotable Quotes:

“Something in me is broken but people don’t realize it because I always smile to hide it.”

“The only way to help me stop suffering was to help me die.”

“Although I am able to walk about freely, I am a prisoner in my skin.”

“They tell me that I’m going to live but I do not believe that and I wait for death. I even beg for it to take me. Death seems preferable to this suffering and humiliation.”

“I was ashamed to still be alive, although no one knew this. I was afraid of this life but no one understood.”

Rating : 3.5/5 stars

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Book #22. I am not a runner but picking a Murakami book is not unusual for me.

img_2975
This is a memoir of Murakami’s affair with long-distance running. He talks about the joy running brings to him, the places he visits and the things he do in preparation for the events, as well as the ups and downs of running. Moreover, he talked about the change running has done to him and how it helped in his writing.

I’ve read several books by Murakami and I love every single one of them. So reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is refreshing because I get to know more about the man behind all the madness! I didn’t know that he is a dedicated runner, joined 25 marathons and also entered the world of triathlon. He runs not to win events/races, he runs to stay healthy and active. He runs because he wants to. And through running, he developed endurance, dedication and focus which we can clearly see mirrored in his writing.

So whether you are a runner or not, a Murakami fan or not, I recommend you give some time to read this. Whatever your passion is, the book will in one way or the other motivate and inspire you.

Quotable Quotes :

“I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.”

“When I’m running I don’t have to talk to anybody and don’t have to listen to anybody. This is a part of my day I can’t do without.”

“In other words, let’s face it: Life is basically unfair. But even in a situation that’s unfair, I think it’s possible to seek out a kind of fairness. Of course, that might take time and effort. And maybe it won’t seem to be worth all that. It’s up to each individual to decide whether or not it is.”

“The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky.”

“It doesn’t matter how old I get, but as long as I continue to live I’ll always discover something new about myself.”

Rating : 4/5

%d bloggers like this: