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Ten Thousand Sorrows : The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,373 Ratings  ·  159 Reviews
The night Elizabeth Kim watched her grandfather and uncle hang her mother from the wooden rafter in the corner of their small Korean hut would forever define her life. Omma had committed the sin of sleeping with an American soldier, and producing not just a bastard, but a mixed-race child, considered worthless. Abandoned at a Christian orphanage in post-war Seoul like so m ...more
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published May 2nd 2000 by Doubleday (first published 2000)
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Sabrina Rutter
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
WOW! I don't think words can do justice for the way this book made me feel. I have read a lot of heartwrenching true life stories, but this is beyond that. The things Elizabeth Kim has been through in her life is beyond anything anyone should ever have to endure. I was already crying by page 20, and continued to cry throughout this entire memoir.
Kim makes a great point in her book that I really hope those adopting from other countries take heed to. These days so many people are adopting children
Vikki Carter
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book had me crying, laughing, and left me exhausted by the last page. It is a honest and heartfelt account of her life, and the prejudice she faces. At no point does she ever feel sorry for herself, or act like a wounded party, she does not ask for pity. Her story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit when faced with such massive adversity. This book serves to teach us all a lesson, even if it's just that we should be grateful at all times for what we have.
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
By the end of this year, Korea will have put a lid on international adoptions. This is sad news for everyone under the age of 45 outside Korea who wants to adopt children, but it's great news for Korean babies born out of wedlock, because it means they can be adopted internally. Many people know the background behind Chinese adoptions - one child per family; girls valued less; babies put in parks to be found. Korea's backstory is very different; the issue here is born-out-of-wedlock status. It's ...more
Jill Smith
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth Kim is a journalist who relates her survival in Korea and horrific experience in a post-war Seoul orphanage, to be adopted by an American family. On the surface this would seem to be a tragic tale with a happy ending

As an illegitimate mixed blood baby born into a small village in Korea she and her mother were ostracised from the community, but her mother ‘Omma’ taught her to be respectful and bow. She did not understand why no one in the village spoke to them or why they spat or threw
Jun 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Exquisite courtesy
That you should see me
Immeasurable grace
For you to believe
That I, the faceless child of darkness
Could enter into hallowed halls of love
Could touch, and find no shame in touching.
could hope, and find hope not in vain.
A peace beyond my understanding
Has fallen on my head like gentle rain.

Elizabeth Kim from her book 'Ten Thousand Sorrows'
Ten Thousand Sorrows The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan by Elizabeth Kim
Hazel McHaffie
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
'I don't know how old I was when I watched my mother's murder, nor do I know how old I am today,' Elizabeth Kim writes. The illegitimate daughter of a Korean peasant girl and an American GI she was regarded as a non-person. Her story - of her beginnings, of her time in an orphanage, of her adoption by a fanatically religious American couple, of her struggle to survive ('I live on the lip of insanity') - make harrowing reading. But the book is compelling nonetheless, and is ultimately a story of ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Okay, only two stars, but that is because these days this book would be shelved as mis-lit - and that is a genre I avoid, as although I have tons of sympathy for poeple who had to live through such awful times - I don't want to immerse myself in their experience as it is too distressing. I am pleased that the writers get to work through their experience by writing about it, I just don't really want to read about it in this format. I would prefer reading a historical account that would be less em ...more
Mari Butler
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Kim’s book is a shocking account of racism and abuse from the perspective of a mixed-race daughter of a Korean mother and American soldier. As a small child her mother has her hide when her grandfather comes to hang her mother for dishonoring their family. She listens through a basket where she is told to hide while her mother is forced to commit suicide. Later she is caged like an animal by a Christian adoption agency. She continues to suffer at the hands of her new parents who eventu ...more
Jun 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Such a sad book, but how often are memoirs truly happy? It was sad, and parts also made me angry. The author had a good writing style, but the ending just seemed sloppy and rushed. It's almost as if she put all her passion into describing her childhood and all the trials, and then when she started to learn about herself and what she needed, she seemed to lose interest in writing about it. I wasn't happy with the way she ended the book, it seemed as if she had given up about halfway through and d ...more
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’m not even sure how to sum this up without sounding trite — Ten Thousand Sorrows is the story of a woman who, at age 5, witnesses her mother’s honor killing. The crime? Having sex out of wedlock and giving birth to a mixed race child.

That’s just the first 5 pages.

The rest of the story is an autobiographical account of what happens next. It’s hard to fathom the life Kim has led, much less the ability to write about it. Kim (who obviously becomes a writer) puts it into a narrative that’s strai
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Never before have I felt so blessed to have this life. I'm blessed that I have parents who love me, and who would do anything for me. I'm blessed that I've been taught to love myself when others don't. I'm blessed because I'm safe in a world full of rape, abuse and honour killings. My heart broke countless times after remembering that this is a memoir and not a work of fiction. Elizabeth Kim experienced all of this, and here she tells her story. My heart goes out to her, a brave woman who finall ...more
Annie Booker
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking story about a brave little girl who fought to make a new life in a stern and unforgiving new world.
Margaret King
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a memoir about the author's journey to compassion and forgiveness, most notably towards herself. Emotionally, it isn't an easy read--it covers topics such as survivor's guilt, mental and physical abuse, abandonment, culture shock, racism, and other traumas--but the prose is precise and sublime. What I especially liked is that the author really captured the feelings she had at the time, as a young child all the way through adulthood, instead of telling the entire story with the wisdom of ...more
Sep 14, 2015 rated it liked it
This is an interesting little book, detailing the life of "Elizabeth" Kim, born to a Korean mother and American GI father. Brandished a honhyol (a "non-person") because of her mixed race, her early life was filled with jeers and abuse from the other villagers where Elizabeth and her mother lived in relative isolation. When she was a young girl, her mother was killed by her father and brother in an "honour killing" for bringing shame on the family. Elizabeth escaped a life of slavery and was inst ...more
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biographies
Another reader described this book as MisLit and I must agree. It is a story of the misery of a young girl who is the product a liason between an American GI and a Korean woman during the Korean Conflict. She is considered a Non Person in Korea and is sent to an orphanage after her grandfather and uncle take part in an Honor Killing of Elizabeth's mother. And it just gets worse and worse. I truly feel sorry for people with tragic lives but I just have problems reading about it. Like the Glass Ca ...more
A memoir of an illegitimate daughter of a Korean peasant and an American soldier born post the Korean war. Mixed children were not considered humans at that time and were socially outcasted by their society. Not long before have Elizabeth witnessed her mother’s murder in an “Honour Killing” while trying to save her daughter from being taken as a slave. Then Elizabeth was dumped into a missionary orphanage in Seoul where circumstances weren’t very pleasant.
But the story doesn’t end here, Elizabet
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Powerful book. Elizabeth's bravery to put her pain out in print is to be commended. Many don't seem to want to believe it - but I think they don't WANT to believe it. As an adoptee and adoptive parent, it resonated with me in some very deep ways. My fundamental upbringing along with abuse from an adoptive parent allowed me to understand much of her issues - although I did not have the horrible experience of an orphanage. But my young daughter has; hopefully not as hideous as Elizabeth's caging. ...more
Lynn Joshua
Oct 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
The first chapter is shocking and drew me into reading Kim's story, but the longer I read, the more I began to find most of the author's claims highly doubtful. There are too many questionable events, outright errors, and contradictions. Since there is no documentation given at all, I must conclude that Ms. Kim made up many of the details in this story. If she's really a journalist, she would know better than to claim her memoirs are the truth without any facts to back it up. As a novel, it fail ...more
 Barb Bailey
Nov 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Elizabeth Kim was the offspring of a Korean mother and American father during or right after the Korean War.
Because her parents were not married Elizabeth at about age 4 years was witness to her mothers' honor killing.
She then is placed in an orphanage in Soule.After a few months Elizabeth is adopted by American parents. Unexpectedly her story does not get much better.Elizabeth feels less than, is ridiculed, physically and mentally abused......her childhood is not plesant or happy. Although wel
It is even a little bit weird how this book was so easy and hard to read at the same time. It was very fluent but content of the book - real life and memories of the author - was hard to digest.

Author analyzed different parts of her life and still stayed quite neutral despite of taking blaming manner in writing.
The book gives quite good example of people who use religion for justifying their sadistic actions. It doesn't matter what is the religion or where you live, it it is the people who shou
Apr 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this autobiography by Elizabeth Kim, was another reminder of how "man" can be so downright cruel to each other and for so many reasons. We see some form of cruelty everyday.

Although I had lot of compassion for Elizabeth and hated the dreadful things that occurred to her, I really did not particularly enjoy reading this book but also at the same time I needed to continue to find out how things turned out.

While writing her life story it seems she has been able to finally put her past whe
Sep 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
What do I say? My fiancé warned me that if I kept getting angry with the things discussed in the book he'd take it away from me. That would have been a good idea.

How can human beings be so stupid and so cruel? Elizabeth is an amazingly strong woman and I marvel at how well she brought up her daughter. Her foster parents, on the other hand, should be shot; regardless of how they repented later.
Feb 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
When I wrote a review of this book for Seattle's International Examiner, I stated that the memoir was so horrific it was unbelievable. Since then several reviewers have commented upon the accuracy of the narrative, particularly the practice of Koreans and "honor killings". What is telling is the publisher (Doubleday) issued a statement stating there is not enough evidence to support her description of these kinds of killings.

I stand by my review: a riveting if incredulous read.
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
I read this years ago and I don't quite remember why I did. I remember getting the feeling that some events seemed exaggerated so the author could get more pity points. No matter whether the events are 100% true or not, that's how I felt it was written. Did not like this book.
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Very much a rendition of her life with fundamentalist Christian parents who read nothing but the Bible, interpreted their way. Tiresome after awhile.

The night Elizabeth Kim watched her grandfather and uncle hang her mother from the wooden rafter in the corner of their small Korean hut would forever define her life. Omma had committed the sin of sleeping with an American soldier, and producing not just a bastard, but a mixed-race child, considered worthless. Abandoned at a Christian orphanage in
Nora Westgeest
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: korean
Elizabeth Kim writes her memoir of a Korean orphan in a poetic, yet accessible way. From her earliest memories as an illegitimate child of a Korean peasant and American GI, to her childhood as an adopted child of two fundamentalist Christians and her account of struggles as a single mother, Kim meticulously captures her feelings of loneliness and abandonment.
The inclusion of her own poetry is a wonderful extension to the harrowing atmosphere, as are the written observations from Leigh, her own
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-koreas
Until I started browsing a few others' reviews on this book, I had never heard the term "Mis-Lit" to describe a particular genre of book! Apparently this is my favored subject matter...for whatever reason.

With that said, this was a tragic, heartbreaking "misery literature" memoir of a child that was the product of a Korean woman/American GI liaison, watched her mother be put to death, and was adopted by a fundamentalist Christian couple from the United States. Granted, had she not been adopted,
Serena.. Sery-ously?
La "colpa" di Elizabeth è quella di essere una figlia illeggitma nella Corea degli anni '50.
La colpa effettiva dei parenti è quella di essere dei mostri.
La colpa dei genitori adottivi invece, è quella di essere stati ottusi e ciechi, incapaci (e non disposti) a comprendere una bambina traumatizzata sradicata a forza dal suo paese, dai suoi affetti e dal suo mondo.
Non so sinceramente chi volevo picchiare per prima e più duramente, giuro.. E' stata una bella lotta!
Elizabeth (nome che gli viene dat
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author endured a lot of suffering especially during her childhood and it was a really heartbreaking story to read. I liked the author's honesty; for example at the end, she didn't just write that she was all better and her life turned out great. She admitted that she still struggled and I liked how she was honest about that. The reason why I'm only giving four stars is because towards the end, it did seem like a lot of the chapters were disorganized and a little rushed. Overall though, I cou ...more
Joz Hunter
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a painful life story. I'm glad to have read it. I couldn't put it down, because you know at some point, she emerges out the other side, and I just wanted to reach the end of the suffering. (To what extent, I won't explain here). It served some good reminders about life for me. That old saying, 'be kind, you never know what struggles anyone else is facing', I don't know, it reminded me that people are walking around in our communities who have faced things we can barely imagine. Be kind. Be ...more
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Elizabeth Kim is a journalist and the author of the best selling novel "Ten Thousand Sorrows", which has been chronicled in O, Oprah Winfrey's magazine.

Kim was born in Korea to a Korean mother and an American father who had deserted her mother.
“We all struggle alone through the ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows of our lives.” 12 likes
“People said things to me like "They're just animals. They're here for our use." I had a visceral reaction to that phrase, maybe because I was told countless times during my growing-up years that I was "just like an animal." I had suffered much of my life because I was considered less than human. Animals were suffering because they were less than human. And it seemed to me that human didn't have much to be proud of, if they treated other living things with such blind cruelty.” 11 likes
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