Check out our member prashanthi’s take on a book she read.
“You don’t choose to be born. You just are. And your birth is your destiny, some say. I say the hell with that. And I should know. I was born not just once but five times. And five times I learned the same lesson, Sometimes in life, you have to grab your so-called destiny by the throat and wring it’s neck”
Powerful opening lines of the book “A river in darkness” is a memoir by Masaji Ishikawa, a man who managed to escape from North Korea. Masaji was born in Japan, to a Japanese mother and Korean father. Right after world war II, when Masaji was about 13yrs old, his parents (mostly his father) decide to relocate to North Korea. A lot of North Koreans were brought to Japan as laborers during World War II. Post war, Japan’s economy collapsed and North Korea needed man power to rebuild the nation. There was a call-back for its citizens, It was advertised as the land of opportunities, “the paradise on earth”. Mass relocation happened during that time. But these innocent people didn’t know that they were about to move from a life of poverty to HELL.
The miseries that the North Koreans face are beyond description. Everyone, including the old and sick have to toil to earn their food. Masaji’s mother was not recognized as a citizen, since she was Japanese and hence assigned no work or food. The family, which included his parents and 3 younger siblings, had to sustain with the limited food. The living conditions weren’t any great either, sustaining snowfall weather without a proper roof or furniture. With such hunger, poverty and anguish, all social ethics breakdown. Begging, theft, stealing, killing, backstabbing is the norm. People try to survive at any cost… it really puts our life and problems into perspective.
Masaji tries hard to keep his family and children alive. Babies born and die without nourishment. With the death of Kim Il-sung, the country plunges further down into economic crisis and poverty. Food barely adequate, people try to boil and eat tree barks, weeds, mushrooms, anything that can be considered even remotely edible. The narration continues on, through his sisters’ marriages, his marriage, kids born, death of family members and how he faced it all.
Finally, he reaches a breaking point when he has 3 kids with no means of getting a job or money to take care of them. With death so imminent, Masaji thinks he can at-least die trying to escape from there than to die out of starvation. He makes a plan, with no money or food, to travel towards China border and cross the river. From there contact the Japanese embassy, ask them to take him back to Japan. Once back in Japan, he can meet his relatives, find a job and send some money back to his wife and children in North Korea. With great difficulty he manages to do so and reaches Japan. Did his dreams finally come true? Was he able to salvage his family?
Written as a short and crisp first hand narrative, it is a gripping novel.
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The History of Bees // Maja Lunde
This dazzling and ambitious literary debut follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees and to their children and one another against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis.
England, 1852. William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive one that will give both him and his children honor and fame.
United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation.
China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao's young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident, she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him.
Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees joins these three very different narratives into one gripping and thought-provoking story that is just as much about the powerful bond between children and parents as it is about our very relationship to nature and humanity.
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