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.

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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!

City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi by William Dalrymple

cityofdjinnsIf you want to read about India, or more specifically Delhi, I happily recommend City of Djinns.

The book tells about about the author’s one year stay, as well as what he has learned, while in New Delhi in the 1980s. He talked about how kind people in Delhi were, different cities, his funny landlady, Mrs. Puri, Hinglish, Anglo-Indians, the partition, the scorching heat he experienced there, horoscopes, architecture, a Hindu wedding and so much about India’s culture and history.

This is my first attempt to William Dalrymple’s works and I must say, I am impressed. He’s a brilliant observer and he can very much entertain readers with his writing. I very much admire the work he’s done with this book. Wonderful.

This book can be a travel guide when I visit India someday. One of my finest reads this year.

Quotable Quotes:

“Partition was a total catastrophe for Delhi,’ she said. ‘Those who were left behind are in misery. Those who were uprooted are in misery. The Peace of Delhi is gone. Now it is all gone.”

“Whoever has built a new city in Delhi has always lost it: the Pandava brethren, Prithviraj Chauhan, Feroz Shah Tughluk, Shah Jehan … They all built new cities and they all lost them. We were no exception.”

“For all its faults we love this city.’ Then, after a pause, she added: ‘After all, we built it.”

“And it would be nice if the roof was a bit stronger. Then the peacocks wouldn’t keep falling through. I don’t mind during the day, but I hate waking up at night to find a peacock in bed with me.”

“When a dust storm blows it means the djinns are going to celebrate a marriage …”

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Uruqhart

theforgottenhighlanderThis is a remarkable story of survival of a young man from Scotland from the hands of the Japanese during the second world war.

Knowing that this is a true story makes it more sad reading. The brutality Alistair Uruqhart experienced as a POW is horrendous. It’s amazing how he and others survived but it’s heartbreaking that many did not.

The book was simply written thus easy to follow. The part towards the end when he came back home and trying to adjust to life again was kind of heartbreaking.

It’s a good read and will make you feel blessed for not having to experience the horrors of war.

Quotable Quotes:
“Life is worth living and no matter what it throws at you it is important to keep your eyes on the prize of the happiness that will come. Even when the Death Railway reduced us to little more than animals, humanity in the shape of our saintly medical officers triumphed over barbarism… Remember, while it always seems darkest before the dawn, perseverance pays off and the good times will return.”
“We all worked so hard that, just trying to survive, each person became more and more insular as it became more difficult. It required a superhuman effort to make it to the end of each day.”

Rating: 3/5 stars

WWW Wednesday (20-Nov-2019)

img_1384-0Hello there! Welcome to WWW Wednesday, hosted by Sam from Taking On A World of Words. I didn’t really have the time to read as much as I usually could the past couple of weeks but I’m somehow back to it now so here we go. 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:

amonstercalls

A Monster Calls is a very emotional story and so vivid in pain and suffering that will break your heart. It just broke mine a thousand times.

Currently Reading:

 

I haven’t gone far with A Dance with Dragons but I’m delighted to read the first few chapters that featured Tyrion, Daenerys and Jon Snow.

I’ve also started The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Urquhart, a 19-year-old soldier in the Gordon Highlanders who was captured by the Japanese in Singapore. This sparks a great interest on my part quite a lot so I hope it won’t disappoint.

Up Next:

russian concubine

I’m still very inclined to read this next so I won’t be checking other books for the meantime.

Also, I was able to write a few reviews about the books I’ve finished reading a few months back and you can check them here:

 

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin 

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

I’d be glad to know what you’re reading, what you’ve just finished and what you plan to read next so drop a link so I can check them out or share them on the comments section.

Until next time, homo sapiens!

Night by Elie Wiesel

nightBook #9.

I’ve always loved learning about the world war and people’s stories during those times, particularly the Holocaust and Night is one of such stories. And every time I read about it, I wonder how I would have fared if I were born a Jew in a Nazi-occupied country during the second World War.

This is a first person account of Elie Wiesel, a teenage Jew from Transylvania, Romania. Elie and his family were soon brought to concentration camps in Auschwitz (later in Buchenwald) and were separated from each other. He tells of the unimaginable horrors that he and the others experienced during the war including people being thrown in the crematory particularly babies.

I personally think that it is extremely important that these events be never forgotten and this book serves as a dismal reminder of human’s capacity to be inhuman to humanity itself. A book you should make a point of reading.

Quotable Quotes :

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

“Every question possessed a power that was lost in the answer.”

“I shall always remember that smile. What world did it come from?”

“One more stab to the heart, one more reason to hate. One less reason to live.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein by John Nixon

download-1Book #5.

When Saddam Hussein was captured in Iraq in December of 2003, they needed someone to confirm his identity and that person was John Nixon, an ex-CIA senior analyst. He then became one of the first to interrogate Saddam during his capture.

Though being able to identify Saddam, Nixon discovered that what he and the CIA or the American government knew about the deposed Iraqi leader was somewhat different from reality. I think the most unthinkable for me was that Saddam was actually spending most of his time writing a book and his aides are running the government. He wrote that Saddam actually describes himself as President and a writer and that he actually complained about the military taking away his writing materials, thus, keeping him from finishing his book. Moreover, they were also mistaken about Saddam’s attitude on the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Iraq’s supposed possession of WMDs used to be the American and British governments’ reason to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Interestingly, Mr. Nixon also was very critical of the CIA and the Bush administration. It was quite astonishing to know that the CIA mainly just wanted to please the President and that the President only hears what he wanted to hear.

Very readable. Very informative read.

Rating : 4/5 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.

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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

Book #49 – 2015 Reading Challenge – A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

This book intrigued me when I first saw it in the bookstore while checking out the non-fiction shelf. I can’t remember reading anything about boy soldiers before and I’m glad I picked this up. Book #49 for my 2015 Reading Challenge…

When I was 12 years old, I was enjoying a fruitful life with my parents and brothers. I go to school, I play sports, hang out with friends, travel, etc. Life was great. But when Ishmael Beah was at that same age, he was running for his life in Sierra Leone, became a boy soldier left with only two choices: kill or be killed.

This is a quick, great and honestly-written book worth reading. My only disappointment was the ending. He mentioned in the book that he ended up living in the US with his adoptive mother but I wanted to know more how he got there from Guinea and what happened after. Other than that, I highly recommend this book to everyone, though it’s a heart-breaking story, it is an important topic/subject everyone should be aware of. It’s a great read that will make you step back, stop complaining and be thankful for what you have.

Favorite quotes : “Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them.”

“Some people tried to hurt us to protect themselves, their family and communities…This was one of the consequences of civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy.”

“At night it felt as if we were walking with the moon. It followed us under thick clouds and waited for us at the other end of dark forest paths. It would disappear with sunrise but return again, hovering on our path. Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them. Under these stars I used to hear stories, but now it seemed as if it was the sky that was telling us a story as its stars fell, violently colliding with each other. The moon hid behind clouds to avoid seeing what was happening.”

“My childhood had gone by without my knowing, and it seemed as if my heart had frozen.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Book #39 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

After reading Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, I made sure to get my hands on Seabiscuit: An American Legend. Luckily, the guesthouse where I stayed at in Phnom Penh has a second-hand bookshop just in front of it. I wasn’t really expecting to find it there but TA-DA!!!

seabiscuit
A fantastic piece of non-fiction.

This is the story of the almost unrecognized talented race horse, Seabiscuit (who happens to be a descendant of one of the greatest race horse, Man o’ War) and the people who came to work together to make history. It’s such a fantastic mix of an underdog story and wonderful writing. Hillenbrand writes what she needs to say in the simplest, smartest and most precise way and that is that.

I really enjoyed this book and would love to recommend it to everyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Favorite quotes : “His books were the closest thing he had to furniture and he lived in them the way other men live in easy chairs.”

“…maybe it was better to break a man’s leg than to break his heart.”

“It’s easy to talk to a horse if you understand his language. Horses stay the same from the day they are born until the day they die. They are only changed by the way people treat them.”

Rating : 5/5 stars