Friday, February 20, 2009

Recommended Reading

Last night I had nothing to do for school and by 8:30 was done putzing about the internet. So I decided to do some reading. I had picked up some books in the English section of the Korean version of Barnes and Noble (Bandi and Luni's) but had not gotten around to reading them so since I am a fast reader and the books are shortish I figured I could finish at least one before I went to bed.

Both books were written by a Korean-American who has won the Newbury Medal for A Single Shard. She has several other books out that I would like to have. I think I'm going to get her childrens books for my nephew-in-utero.

The first book; A Single Shard takes place around the 13th century if I recall correctly and is about the Korean potters. Korea is especially known for it's celadon pottery which is a greenish colour. It's been around for several centuries. It was a pretty good story about an orphan boy who wants to learn how to make the pottery. The detail the author gives about the making of the pottery is facinating.

The second tho is much more...gripping. In the first half of the last century Japan invaded Korea. The Japanese took away much of the Korean wa of life; forcing them to learn and speak Japanese, making them take Japanese names and many other things that were much worse. When My Name Was Keoko takes place from 1940-1948 and the events of the time are seen through the eyes of a brother and sister. I can't really explain the story but it is heartbreakingly beautiful. The closest I could compare it to is the stories you read about WWII Europe and seeing the things the Germans might have done to the Jews. But to me seeing and reading about what the Japanese did to the Koreans is worse. They did not kill so many of them but instead treated them as less than dirt. The story where they made the Koreans burn all the Rose of Sharon trees (the rose of Sharon is a symbol of Korea), but the mother hides the smallest one in a pot, the scene where 20 girls are taken from school supposedly to work in factories for Japan when they are really being taken away to be "comfort women" for the Japanese soilders, the scene when all metal is taken from the houses ut the mother hides an heriloom dragon broach. I've read books in a similar style about WWII but none have affected me the way this one has. Maybe because I live here and can visualize more what's going on.

Reading the second book really helped me to understand more why the Koreans are so proud of their culture. Of their Koreaness. The Japanese tried so hard to take away the culture yet it remains. It also helps me understand more the idea behind (han).

Read both books. They are quite good and you'll learn something that not many Westerners learn. If you only read one read the second. Terrible things happen in the East too. Things that seem worse in some ways than the things that hapened in the West.

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