Monday, December 5, 2016

The Girl with Seven Names - Hyeonseo Lee

The Girl with Seven Names
Title: The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story
Author: Hyeonseo Lee
Publication Date: 7/2/15
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: My dad actually bought it for me.
Date Completed: 11/5/16

Summary: Born and raised in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee became an accidental defector. This book tells the story of her life, including her years after leaving the country and her efforts to get her family out as well. 

What I Thought: My interest in North Korea began shortly after college. I read Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (this was pre-blog) and it totally captivated me. Since then, I've read a book about the isolated country nearly every year. 

This memoir is a logical next step. It's the first book I have read written by an actual defector. My dad actually sent it to me, thinking I would enjoy it. He was right.

It's a very interesting story. Lee grew up in a relatively privileged family. In fact, her defection came about sort of accidentally. She lived on a town bordering China and decided to cross the river for just a few days, wanting to have an adventure and see what the other country was like. However, once she crossed, circumstances conspired against her and she had no choice but to flee deeper into China. So began her years in exile. She was suddenly confronted with a very different world from the one in which she had grown up. Lee is very straight forward about the pros and cons of such a drastic change.

Eventually, the book becomes about her ardent desire and struggle to get her family out of North Korea as well. She details their harrowing journey across Asia, forever facing the possibility of forced return to the North. 

This book more than any other I have read gave me a bigger perspective on how dangerous it is to flee North Korea. I think we have an idea that once you cross the border and leave the country, you're home free. Everything will work out for you because there are so many countries just waiting to accept you with open arms. Reality is not like that at all. Lee's story and the story of her family is a great reminder of the dangers and hardships that face defectors. Their hardships are not over upon leaving North Korea; rather, they are transformed into new, very unfamiliar battles. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Possibly

A Reduced Review: An interesting memoir, but also a great reminder that, for North Korean defectors, the struggle for a new life does not end as they cross they border.

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