Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Book: Suki Kim's "Without You, There Is No Us"

My latest book was a fascinating look at North Korea.  Last year I read "Nothing to Envy", a view of North Korea as seen through the eyes of defectors.  Most of these people were from the lower castes of society.  In Suki Kim's "Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite" North Korea is seen through the perspective of the sons of the elite.

Suki Kim, an atheist, South Korean born, journalist from New York enters North Korea pretending to be a missionary who is pretending to be a teacher.  She gets a job at a missionary run college where she teaches English while collecting notes about everything she sees and experiences.   The result is a fascinating picture of national delusion, self-deception, and a fluid idea of what is the truth.

I really enjoyed this book.  I had expected the elite to have some idea about the outside world but, in fact, they are as isolated and naive about the outside world as the lowly peasants of the hermit kingdom.  It was interesting to see how the author tries to introduce them to western technology only to find that they really weren't interested in what she was saying ... at least not interested in public.

The author sometimes contrasts the dogmatic beliefs of her students with those of the christian missionaries.  At times it is hard to tell the difference between them.

I gave this book four star on Goodreads.  The only negative was her mentioning her dating relationships back home that really do not add anything to this book.

Note:  After I suggested that I need to be a bit pickier with my book selection, it turns out that two of the books I've read this year, "All the Light We Cannot See" and "The Sixth Extinction", won the 2015 Pulitzer prizes for fiction and nonfiction respectively.  I guess I'm not so bad at picking books after all.

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