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Comfort Woman

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  1,058 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
Possessing a wisdom and maturity rarely found in a first novelist, Korean-American writer Nora Okja Keller tells a heartwrenching and enthralling tale in this, her literary debut. Comfort Woman is the story of Akiko, a Korean refugee of World War II, and Beccah, her daughter by an American missionary. The two women are living on the edge of society—and sanity—in Honolu
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Penguin Books (first published 1997)
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Daniel Clausen
Apr 19, 2011 Daniel Clausen rated it it was amazing
A Book that is about Far More than just History

The comfort women issue—perhaps one of the most contentious and controversial subjects in Japanese-Korean relations—is the backdrop of this amazing novel. The issue of the enslavement of Korean women to service Japanese soldiers during the war is at once a catalyst, a terrible haunting force, and the barrier to a better understanding of family lineage.

The issue of history is certainly important in this book, and provides it with a very unique backd
Fantastically written, though incredibly sad. She does a stellar job at making the reader feel the difference in culture between a Korean mother and an American daughter, and really articulates the poignancy of a mother's love for and relationship with her daughter.

It was a hard book to read, because the realities of the comfort camps were heartbreaking, but I agree with someone else on Goodreads who said that reading this book made them feel like a better person.
Aug 07, 2014 Siao rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Breathtaking: I had to reread certain passages, just to fully process how AMAZING this book truly was. Would recommend this to anyone.
A.J. Llewellyn
Jun 19, 2010 A.J. Llewellyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own-a-copy
A devastating book - beautiful and painful. Hard to read...hard to put down.
Jun 21, 2017 Linda rated it liked it
Recommended to Linda by: Barb Dalious - postal book group
A selection in my postal book group. I've never heard of this book prior to its showing up in my mailbox. It involves a Korean mother and her daughter who escape from occupied Korea to Hawaii. The mother speaks to spirits to the chagrin of her daughter but the financial benefit of another woman who gives the two a place to stay.
It was difficult for me to get into this book, but once I did I couldn't read it fast enough. There was a lot of magic realism and foreign words that caught me (I have to
Jun 14, 2007 Cormack rated it really liked it
Comfort Woman tells the story of a Korean woman who suffered through being a prisoner in a Japanese prostitution camp during World War II. If I remember correctly It's told from the perspective of her Americanized daughter who's a bit embarassed by her mother's strange behavior. After her mother dies she finds audio tapes her mother made and learns the truth about what her mother endured. I've been meaning to re-read this book to research historic and cultural details I didn't understand on firs ...more
Jan 24, 2017 spoon rated it it was amazing

fucked me uppp real good ugh.
Jesse Campagna
Jul 06, 2007 Jesse Campagna rated it it was amazing
Fought reading this because of the painful and ugly nature of the story. I cannot be more glad that I did. Inspiring and I think this book made me a better person. High praise.
Apr 06, 2009 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-school
Oh goooodddd. There's a passage from this book that just about killed me. Killed me. I mean, if the whole book does nothing for you, then you are pretty much made of stone.
content warning: rape, sexual violence, sexual slavery, child neglect

This was a surprisingly easy novel to read despite its incredibly weighty topic. I'm taking an Asian American lit class this semester, and I was assigned this to read immediately following a really frustrating documentary about comfort woman, and to be quite frank, I expected to have to force myself through this, crying and moaning the whole time. And I did cry––of course I cried, I'm the girl who cried during Madagascar––but t
Oct 13, 2016 Mpoushoura rated it really liked it
This is a "one-sitter" book. I wish my schedule allowed me to read it in one go. The story-telling is mesmerizing, taking you into a world that is there but we tend to ignore.

This book was unexpected. I was expecting more of a "historical" type of book, telling a story about a mother and daughter relationship. To my surprise, it was even more than that. In my opinion, this is NOT a book just about one daughter and one mother relationship. It has the ability to uplift your soul and become a part
Aug 03, 2014 Betty rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american, asia, fiction
A unique novel, moving between the narratives of a Korean mother - laced with threads of magic and mythology - and her stolid American daughter. Beccah's mother is opaque to her, but the reader learns of her tragedies. Sold by a sister to the Japanese, Akiko (as she is called by the Japanese) is enslaved as a comfort woman. Deeply mysterious, this is no Amy Tan novel with its easy access to Western readers. An amazing debut novel.
Jul 30, 2007 Casey rated it it was amazing
A brutal and important story--this "historical fiction" is an eloquent and detailed telling of the Japanese treatment of Chinese female prisoners of war, and the mental ramifications of being a comfort women.
Dec 28, 2009 Courtney rated it really liked it
Hard to read due to the descriptive details regarding the mother's past. However, very good book so far and I can't seem to put it down.
Nov 18, 2010 KayG rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
A so-so read about an horrifying event in history.
Mar 20, 2016 Meredith rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-books
Overwhelming, but an important read. I had never heard of Comfort Women before reading this book and I think it's a topic that should be more widely wnown
Mar 01, 2017 Bree rated it it was amazing
I've already written about how difficult this book was to read because of how deep Keller takes the reader into trauma. Also because we rarely get an Asian/Asian-American perspective of history, so it's hard to stomach that the snapshot we get in this text minimalizes some of the tragedies we are familiar with in our own histories (from the perspective of privilege, of course).

In these ways, this novel provides a dark chapter of history on Imperial Japan's occupation of Korea and the horrors ena
May 22, 2017 Roseanna rated it liked it
There was a quite a lot of spirits and trances which I didn't care for. I would have liked the story more if the author spent less time taking us into the world of spirits. It is a story about a crime against women that I had not known of before reading this book. I'll be following up with more books about these comfort women.
Stephanie Luce
Jul 19, 2017 Stephanie Luce rated it it was amazing
After meeting a few of the survivors at a protest march in Seoul, I had to read this book. It is absolutely heartbreaking and gives one a new appreciation of just how much the Korean people have suffered.
Jul 02, 2008 L rated it liked it
Shelves: effed-up
Kim Soon Hyo, the mother in Nora Okja Keller’s Comfort Woman, is not sure how to share her own story of being a comfort woman with her daughter, Beccah Bradley. In fact, in some ways Akiko, as she was known in the comfort stations, is not sure whether to share her story at all. This uncertainty, bound and tangled with motherly love, compels both Beccah and Akiko to form their identities in the fluid space between them.

Comfort women, kept in imprisoned prostitutes in Japanese camps during World
Apr 11, 2016 Kate rated it liked it

I REALLY wish I could give this more stars - but I unfortunately only enjoyed half of this story. This was a heart wrenching, horribly gruesome and graphic story of a woman who was a comfort woman to soldiers during WWII and her daughter who has to deal with her mother years afterward when her mind is beginning to fall away. "Akiko" was a Korean woman stripped of her korean name and identity and made into a comfort woman - which is a young girl who is used for military soldiers to use
May 21, 2011 Cindy rated it liked it
I was quite disappointed to find that "Comfort Woman" was less about a historical account of a survivor of the Japanese recreation camps than it was about a Korean shaman mother whose relationship with her daughter was strained by spiritual idiosyncrasies, miscommunication, and misunderstanding. Of course, the daughter came to realize that everything her mother did, she did it out of love for her. History played a minor role in the story, even if the mother's shamanism was prompted by her experi ...more
Jul 31, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
I read this cover-to-cover, and not just because it's 110 degrees in the shade where I live this summer... Keller here tells a very moving, often brutal story about the daughter (Beccah) of a Korean WWII refugee (Akiko) and American missionary and their struggles with madness, meaning and identity. Akiko, pressed into horrific service as a "comfort woman" to Japanese soldiers during the war, carries fascinating darkness within her: she works as a seer, and holds a dizzying number of superstitiou ...more
Nov 13, 2011 Liz rated it liked it
(Trigger Warning)
This haunting novel about a "comfort woman" and her relationship with her daughter is startling and at times, almost suffocating. The title refers to a time when the Japanese held women captive in WWI as "comfort women", women that were renamed and repeatedly sexually assaulted and beaten. Our protagonists mother survived the camps, but her mind does not. Although she assumes a "normal" life in America with a husband and daughter, she retreats from her memories of rape by commun
Margaret Larsen Turley
Jan 08, 2011 Margaret Larsen Turley rated it really liked it
Though Comfort Woman was Ms. Keller’s first published novel it is written with great expertise. The story is told from two points of view: the Mother, Soon Hyo / Akiko and the daughter, Beccah. The author weaves a circular web of Korean culture threaded with the ravages of war and tendrils of missionaries. Each character, including Auntie Reno, has a unique voice that wraps you in its cocoon until your understanding emerges imbued with knowledge. The complex relationships of mothers and daughter ...more
Jul 27, 2009 Diana rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jaimie Case
I loved the fact that this book is grounded in a Korean-American author who writes poetically (kinda like a Korean version of Amy Tan?), yet unflinchingly looks at the harsh realities of civilian causalties in war without pointing fingers. There aren't many books or media out there in Western culture depicting Japanese occupation of Korea (at least from what I can find). It brought back memories and things my own mother (who was Korean and born in Japan) would say or the history she taught me of ...more
Dec 07, 2016 Alex rated it liked it
Was one of the readings I had to do for my Lit class. Was very eye-opening. While this is not a biography and technically a book of fiction, the basis of the story is fact, talking about when the Japanese invaded Korea and other neighboring Asian countries. While there they either abducted women or would promise them work in factories but would really take them and place them in what were called "Comfort Camps" where they were forced to be sex slaves--which explains the name Comfort Woman.

Just k
Dec 09, 2013 Kayla rated it liked it
This book really gave me a new perspective into how difficult it was for the comfort woman. The one thing I found annoying came about only two times in the book; once near the end, and in an interview with the author. Comfort women were described in these two cases as 'prostitutes' but I really don't feel that term is right. Prostitutes earn money, even if just a little bit. Comfort women were given nothing but heartache.

And a nice line from a small essay at the end of the book, titled "A Bite
sarah semark
Jan 15, 2017 sarah semark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: year-of-colour
This is not what I'd call an easy book to read, but the graphic depictions of violence never feel gratuitous or snuffy, the inherent sadness in the story never melodramatic. The writing itself is lyrical and rather lovely, even when describing terrible things—or maybe that's what makes the terrible things feel less gratuitous.

It definitely helps to have an understanding of the Japanese occupation of Korea, or at least a willingness to read Wikipedia pages alongside the book. Most definitely a ma
Dec 06, 2012 Ellen rated it did not like it
I disliked this book so much, I don't know why I finished it. It was hard to really figure out what it was 'about'. The background is the horrible practice of the Japanese of using Korean women as 'comfort women' but this book was written in such a confusing way, it became painful to read after a while. If I had a nickel for the number of times the author used the words 'my mother' on one page or even in the same paragraph, I would be a very wealthy person. In the acknowledgements, she thanks a ...more
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