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Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,657 ratings  ·  193 reviews
A searing story of starvation and survival in North Korea, followed by a dramatic escape, rescue by activists and Christian missionaries, and success in the United States thanks to newfound faith and courage

Inside the hidden and mysterious world of North Korea, Joseph Kim lived a young boy’s normal life until he was five. Then disaster struck: the first wave of the Great F
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

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This showed up in one of the bags my friends and I have been exchanging with each other during quarantine, which turned out to be the perfect boon, because not only was it a perfect candidate for Pacific Islander/Asian Heritage month, I've also been on a bit of a North Korean-themed reading binge over the last month, starting with A KIM JONG-IL PRODUCTION, before segueing into THE GIRL WITH SEVEN NAMES, and finishing with A RIVER IN DARK
Matthew Ciarvella
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Anytime you finish a book the same afternoon that you pick it up, it's usually a good sign that it's compelling. I am deeply impressed with the selection of North Korea memoirs that are on offer and how each one paints a different picture of a different life, a different person, but yet manages to share the same hopes for a better future.

In particular, Joseph Kim's book is unique in a few regards; it continually struck me that he is my peer in age (only four years younger than myself) and so I r
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
The writing skill is not 4 star, but much slack is given for that aspect as he has had English for few years, and still struggles. It has only been 6 or 7 years since the change of emigrating from North Korea thru China has occurred for this very young man. Much of the book is year by year, no- month by month of his life from the time he was 5 years old.

So many fiction or non-fiction reads upon 1st World problems have readers reporting weeping and flushing emotively in their reviews. Of course h
Lindsey (Books for Christian Girls)
This book is hard.
This book is gritty at times.

But, this book tells the actual life story of a North Korean deflector who God had His hand on the entire time.


After watching numerous TED Talks and researching about the organization Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), I quickly placed an order for this book after hearing Joseph Kim's story. [YouTube link to his TED Talk]

I'm truly not a non-fiction reader. With the type of content reviews I do, it's easy to feel like I'm nit-picking someone's life
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Though not 4 star writing, a compelling story told with great humanity.
Apr 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Despite the detailed horrors of starvation, violence, loss and betrayal the author expresses in "Under the Same Sky," I never felt the story to be completely without hope or heart. There are times I felt guilty for enjoying the book, because the author, Kim, really lives through some truly dark and unbelievably awful years. His constant hunger and struggle to survive, and not only survive but connect with another human being who won't leave or betray him somehow, is written in a genuine and appe ...more
Dalia Hosam
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've read a few stories about North Korea, but Joseph Kim's is the one that certainly moved me the most so far. It's beautiful, heart breaking, and inspiring. It's a clear story with memories, and dates that I found myself identifying with. This little boy's struggle to understand a world that was collapsing around him, losing his father, and the never knowing of what has happened to his sister and mother.

There are several reasons, I loved this book. It's written by a contemporary. A person of m
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Kim's story is horrifying. It's different from many of the other stories of DPRK defectors I've read in that Kim was pretty much a child when he escaped North Korea and was motivated to leave first and foremost by starvation. The epilogue was heart-wrenching and the acknowledgements even more so. Kim's perspective is that of a child fighting to live homeless, starving, and without family in the DPRK; there are more comprehensive accounts of life in North Korea, but this personal, sad story of a ...more
Molly Titera
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’m putting myself out there with giving this book five stars. Why would I give a book where someone is starving the whole time five stars?! Because:
I found myself talking on multiple occasions to people around me about it.. “Did you know this was happening? We don’t know even know hunger! Let alone starvation...!”
I was excited to sit and read it any chance I had.
The story moved at a good pace. I was pleased throughout the book with details he decided to expound or when he decided to move on.
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This North Korean refugee memoir ends on a much more hopeful note than the first one I read, so for that reason alone, I would recommend this one for anyone interested in the topic. Be warned, though, that the hope is a long time coming. I could only read a couple chapters at a time in certain portions of the book. It's heavy reading.

Also be warned: after reading this book, you might go straight to your computer to look up North Korea relief agencies to find out ways you can help!
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dang. It’s not an enjoyable read as the subject matter is just too grim, but it’s important and moving. The story of a North Korean refugee who survived the famine, he doesn’t hold anything back, and it’s deeply depressing. When the population of an entire country lives on the edge of survival, they’re barely human. Any sense of loyalty, morality - humanity - goes out the window and all that’s left is survival. So sad.

It has particular resonance for (South) Koreans because those are our people,
Cindy Leighton
Any book detailing the unimaginable horrors of living through the famines in North Korea of the 1990s and into the 2000s is going to be compelling and wrenching - Kim's tale adds to the body of work written by people who have managed to escape North Korea to tell their tales. No little boy should have to watch his father starve to death, knowing his father's biggest fear is that his children will starve without him. No matter how many times you read about people resorting to eating thistles and ...more
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful read! My favorite NK book thus far. I do hope Joseph finds his sister one day....
Susan Morris
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rounding up from 3.5 stars, because it’s an important subject we know little about - life in North Korea. Perhaps I struggled some to get thru it because it was so depressing, and difficult to understand such hunger & desperation during a famine. (Own)
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
totally didn't read this in just an hour ...more
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well it was a bit slow in the beginning but it got way better in the end.
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Joseph (Kwang Jin) Kim's recounting of his early life in North Korea is a poignant reminder not to forget those in need. It is not a light read, as young Kim faced numerous brutal events and chronic starvation from the years of famine. But this is a story that every caring person should know about. It is also a good read for Americans because it will provide insight into how North Korean refugees may view them and their culture. Overall, it was a beautifully written and emotionally moving biogra ...more
Donna Smith
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-school
A personal look at what it was like to live and grow up in North Korea during extreme famine. Heart-breaking yet hopeful narrative. I would like to know more about his journey after he arrived in America. I was disappointed that he didn't describe more of his spiritual journey. It seemed like the Christian church reached out to him when he was at his lowest point. He embraces his understanding of scripture, he accepts salvation, but once he makes it to America he doesn't again mention the Church ...more
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
Oh wow. Wow wow wow...Amazing! I love compelling and honest written memoirs. I CANNOT believe what people live like and go through at the same time that I am living my best life. This will humble you. Make you grateful. Make you hungry. Make you feel full and remind you that you are blessed. You are warm and your hunger can be satiated at any moment in time. My occasional complaints about what to make for dinner stem from possible laziness and thoughts of a mundane chore and not a lack of food a ...more
3.5 stars. This one offers more insights into the day-to-day and special-occasion rituals of North Korean culture. The TV shows that little boys like. The foods and outfits parents give to their children for Sports Day.

A few parts of the story struck me as unusual and hard to believe. For example, his family moved around the country a lot, more freely than I thought people could. And are North Korean defectors really taken directly to U.S. consulates/embassies in the PRC and flown to L.A.? I th
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I had to put it down halfway and take a week's break to heal emotionally from the extremes of this man's childhood. I'm glad he's finally in a stable place, as far as physical needs go. I hope he continues to find healing emotionally and spiritually. Books like this make politics seem like raucous squabbling against the backdrop of the reality of real people carrying the weight of foolish politicians' decisions. ...more
Sara Elizabeth
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“We thought this was how the rest of our lives would be: living hand to mouth, only half nourished, often dizzy, too weak to really flourish” (Kim 69) . In Joseph Kim’s novel Under The Same Sky. Joseph Kim (originally known as Kwang Jin)’s life was not always like this. He once had a safe home, loving family, and plenty of food. In this novel, Kim recounts his troubled childhood in North Korea in 1995, and his escape to freedom in 2007. Under the Same Sky is a nonfiction story written is first p ...more
Alice Lippart
Though it's definitely an interesting book that shows the life of North Koreans during the time the author grew up well, I had wished for a bit more on his life after leaving and get to know the inside of his head more, his thoughts and his feelings around everything (there is some of it, don't get me wrong, but I don't feel it's completely there). Worth the read though. ...more
Ben Truong
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, autobiography
Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith is an autobiography written by Joseph Kim with Stephan Talty as a contributor. This memoir is an account of the harrowing escape from North Korea by Joseph Kim – one of the few successful attempts of such a deed.

Joseph Kim is an American-North Korean Human Rights Activist and author. He was born in North Korea in 1990 and managed to escape and immigrate to the United States in 2007. He managed to complete his high school and college degre
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book because I am absolutely fascinated by North Korea. I've watched documentaries and read a few books, but the control of information in North Korea is so tight that it's hard to get a full story. My fascination came from the book "These are the Generations," which I highly recommend. I was expecting this book to be a bit similar in terms of discussing the spiritual and religious aspects of North Korea (especially since the cover mentions Christianity!), but there was barely any ...more
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
It is hard for me to say I "liked" this book, because honestly the subject matter was heart-wrenching and difficult to read. But that's what you are bargaining for if you pick a book that mentions starvation on the front cover. Admittedly, I was hoping that the starvation part would be, say, one third of the book, and escape and rescue and life in America would take up the other two thirds. In reality (and, well, it is reality, not a plot device), wretched starvation and human cruelty took up at ...more
Rishi Kinger
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I first came across Joseph Kim while browsing through the TED website in late 2017. After viewing his TED talk video, I was determined to go out and get hold of a copy of this book. The video itself was very inspiring and touching that I had to know his story. Like the sub title of the book mentions,it is a journey, albeit a tough and grueling one from starvation to salvation. His vivid recollection of his time in North Korea, his struggle, his escape and his current ongoing search for his siste ...more
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
This is hands down one of the BEST non fiction books I have read. 5 stars !!.

It is an eye opening memoir about life in North Korea - both before and after the fall of Communist Russia, which had a direct impact on life in N. Korea.

The chapters unfold 1 by 1, with Joseph Kim providing searing and extremely horrifying memories of his life in N. Korea. It is hard to fathom anyone could survive life there and live to tell about it. It is not a spoiler alert to mention that he eventually manages to e
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I usually don't read biography books, but my fascination with North Korea's dictator regime and me discovering Joseph Kim's story really moved me to read this book. I was already aware of the average North Korean life, at least from documentaries and hidden footages. However, reading Joseph Kim's own accounts truly took me to really understand that life in North Korea is a matter of survival, especially during the Great Famine.

I have never finished a book so fast before, but not because I was bo
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