by Yeonmi Park (or Park Yeon-mi)
An autobiographical account of a young North Korean girl’s early life experiences and subsequent defection. Part One deals with her early life in North Korea until her escape, aged 13, to China. There she lived for two years, effectively as a slave to her traffickers, until she and her mother finally managed to escape via Mongolia to South Korea. Part Three deals with her initial impressions of South Korea and her gradual adaptation and decision to become an activist.
The storytelling is not as good as it could be, but the story is convincing precisely because it is real. What stands out most is Yeonmi’s energy and courage in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles. She trusts in the goodness of people, even after having witnessed some of the most heartless, cruel behaviour imaginable.
Her decision to tell her story is perhaps the bravest act of all. She is well aware of the risks to herself and to her family – but decides that not to tell the story would be worse.