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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Paperback)

A National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle finalist, Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy is a remarkable view into North Korea, as seen through the lives of six ...
5.0 out of 5 stars
This book has a different format compared to many North Korea books. In this book, the author starts with telling the story of the lives of several North Koreans in various walks of life. Of course, we know from the beginning, that regardless of how unlikely it seems, at some point all of these people are going to escape North Korea in order to be able to tell their story. We learn the story of how these individuals grew up and lived in North Korea, their thoughts about their government and now Eternal Leader Kim, how they lived through the starvation years of the 90's, and the long road leading to why they decided to defect (or in 1 case, was tricked by a family member into defection, and how they finally were able to defect to South Korea. We learn what happened to some of their family members left behind, about their attempts to rescue family members trapped in North Korea (some successful and some not), and the sometimes harsh adjustment to the freedom and capitalism of South...Read more

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While eight years have passed since this book was published, little has changed with North Korea in terms of their isolation from the rest of the world. Told through stories of defectors, Demick's book is a gripping account of what life is like behind a repressive, totalitarian state, built upon the cult of personality where the citizens of North Korea live in a country that resembles 1957 not 2017.There are so many unforgettable stories in this book, the one of Mi-Ran and Jun-Sang, read like a Shakespearean tragedy. As these two young teens carry on a secret romantic (and non-sexual relationship) violating societal and class norms, the reader understands the true personal loneliness that a totalitarian society exerts not on the individual, the inability to trust even those closest to them. As Jun-Sang's schooling leaves him far away from Mi-Ran, we understand the extent to which a famine consumes the country, killing even the healthiest, and causing citizens like Mi-Ran...Read more
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This book has a different format compared to many North Korea books. In this book, the author starts with telling the story of the lives of several North Koreans in various walks of life. Of course, we know from the beginning, that regardless of how unlikely it seems, at some point all of these people are going to escape North Korea in order to be able to tell their story. We learn the story of how these individuals grew up and lived in North Korea, their thoughts about their government and now Eternal Leader Kim, how they lived through the starvation years of the 90's, and the long road leading to why they decided to defect (or in 1 case, was tricked by a family member into defection, and how they finally were able to defect to South Korea. We learn what happened to some of their family members left behind, about their attempts to rescue family members trapped in North Korea (some successful and some not), and the sometimes harsh adjustment to the freedom and capitalism of South...Read more
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