I've long been interested in the lives of people living in the confines of North Korea. While information is fairly limited, in recent times more and...moreI've long been interested in the lives of people living in the confines of North Korea. While information is fairly limited, in recent times more and more has come to the awareness of the public as individuals bravely tell their stories and surveillance and satellite images become allies in confirming and documenting what is happening in North Korea.
Unlike other books on North Korea (memoirs) that I've read, this one is told from 2 perspectives: that of Shin (the man who escaped), and the author who wrote and told his story. This provides a great perspective because the author helps clarify and really outline the struggle North Koreans' have in assimilating to life outside of North Korea. I also appreciate his frustrations in trying to deal with an escapee, because many people might assume that once out of North Korea, these people can just "get on with their lives" problem free. Clearly, it is a life long process and these people are often traumatized and confused as their feelings (which they are taught to suppress) finally surface.
Shin in one of only two known escapees from labor camps in North Korea, which is an astounding feat. This book tells his life story (from his memory) along with some fact based evidence added by Blaine Harden (author) of his life born into a N.Korean labor camp, to his escape and life after living outside of North Korea.
The chapters are well written, and make an impact. The culture of North Korea is well explained (caste system, rules, blood lines and how one can be considered guilty even if they did nothing wrong by virtue of being related to someone considered an "enemy"of the state, the lives in labor camps, and the conditions people live in).
"Human trafficking can only work if the victims remains invisible to the public eye". David Batstone's excellent book on human trafficking and slavery...more"Human trafficking can only work if the victims remains invisible to the public eye". David Batstone's excellent book on human trafficking and slavery is captured perfectly by this quote from the book. Each chapter takes you through a different country and a different form of slavery, opening your eyes to the horrific travesties that are often occurring right under our noses. Ignorance only serves the traffickers and those benefiting from this, and if knowledge is the best defense and way to fight , then Mr. Batstone has done us all a great service.
If possible, I truly "enjoyed" reading this book (though the subject is heart-breaking). It was written in a very "down to earth", easy to read, comprehensive manner, and provided a wealth of information. I believe we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and read books like this; it could so easily be us in these precarious, detestable situations. We are very lucky. My hope is that by educating ourselves and therefore becoming more aware to the atrocities around us, we will have the ability to make a difference and stand up for those who have been subjected to this. Educating ourselves will perhaps make us stand up to the traffickers, governments, and corrupt police and legal systems, and take notice to the lives around us, and make it that much more difficult for those profiting from this human slave trade.
It is sad to know that this is happening anywhere and everywhere--all around us, and instead of turning a blind eye, David Batstone has delved into the world of the victims and survivors to cast a light on these sadly ubiquitous, criminal, and cruel acts.
I found this book inspiring, informative, and compassionate. David Batstone provides numerous websites for those who are interested in pursuing the topic further and provides great tips on how we can make a difference and help. I highly recommend reading this book--for anyone and everyone. This is a great forum for starting a conversation, learning more, and hopefully making a step towards eradicating slavery once and for all.(less)
"Wherever cruelty is a norm of life, no one can expect compassion and mercy, not even the weakest".
This phrase sums up Anna Politkovskaya's raw, hone...more"Wherever cruelty is a norm of life, no one can expect compassion and mercy, not even the weakest".
This phrase sums up Anna Politkovskaya's raw, honest, and unflinching memoir recollecting her time in and around Chechnya. Politkovskaya immersed herself in the Chechen life, living among the people and experiencing their lives on a daily basis. Her love for the people is obvious, as is her outrage at the atrocities which took place during her stay. These people don't know peace, stability, a life free from fear, war, death and many of the other "luxuries" and freedoms we experience-- "freedoms" and "freedoms from" which should be a right, and not a privilege. Living in such a precarious and dangerous place clearly has taken its toll on the citizens, and the only way to cope is to numb yourself to the immeasurable death and destruction all around you.
I most enjoyed her recollections of the time spent with certain people and families, recurring throughout the book. The impunity with which the "government" (and I use that term losely) and militia (and Putin) operate are disgusting. Granted, Politkovskaya was an ardent anti-Putin activist, never shying away from voicing her opinion of him. The fact that he could come to power again is terrifying.
You can still see the consequences of these wars; the destruction and uncertainty that has damaged a new generation, and devastated the old is apparent and still salient. It has been brutally thrown upon them with no choice but to pick up the pieces and try to survive, move on, start over, and try to forget. The effects are evident, and sadly will most like remain so, for the chasm runs deep, the hurt is vast, and the memories are still fresh. Although there isn't what one can consider a "war" now, the remnants, retaliations, instability and a palpable sense of precariousness still dominate much of Chechen life.
I really liked her various interviews with militia and government leaders. Hearing many sides of the conflict, and hearing what they believe the solution is and what the outcome will be is fascinating.
Anna does a good job of illustrating the futility and frustration of trying to ameliorate the situation; anarchy reigns, there is no authority that all factions respect and listen to, there are no laws, no regimes, and corruption and terror seem to be the only "rules of law" the masses have agreed to live by; it is necessary if they want to survive.
I have followed this region for a long time, and though Politkovskaya paints a bleak picture, glimmers of hope are noticeable throughout. One can only hope that in time, stability, democracy, peace, and most of all, forgiveness become the defining features.
Anna was an extremely brave woman, ultimately paying for her outspokenness and willingness to speak the truth and criticize those "in power" with her life. Reading this book now in 2012 struck me as foreboding and relevant, especially since Putin is once again (or rather, as usual, once again) playing the puppeteer in a fake regime posing as democracy, propelling himself into controlling the country and surrounding areas once again.
I would have loved to see what Anna would have written on the war in Iraq, the genocide in Darfur, the Middle East, and especially the "Arab Spring" and currently the horrors in Syria. It is a loss to the journalistic community-- she gave a voice to the weakest, and painted an unflinching portrayal of life as is experienced by the people.(less)