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March 2019: Debut > White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht / 4 Stars

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message 1: by Kimber (new)

Kimber (kimberwolf) | 823 comments (Cross-posted in PBT Horizons Challenge / March - Culture: South Korea)

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht
4 Stars

In 1943, teenage Hana is a haenyeo – a female sea diver – who has lived under the Japanese occupation of Korea her entire life. One day while diving with her mother for food to sustain them and sell at market, Hana sees a soldier of the Imperial Japanese Army on the shore and fears for the safety of her younger sister, Emi, who is also on the shore waiting for her mother and sister. Hana rushes to intercede, pushing her sister into hiding and confronting the soldier. Hana is abducted by the Japanese soldiers, who are involved in human trafficking. She is transported by train to Manchuria, held captive, and forced into sex slavery.

Emi, saved from the same fate by her sister's actions, grows up under Japanese occupation and also suffers as a result of the brutalities of war. The story is told from dual viewpoints, Hana's story in 1943 and Emi's in 2011, when Emi is a widow with grown children from whom she keeps secrets. She is still holding out hope that her sister Hana is alive somewhere.

This is a powerful story. It is so important that stories like this are brought to light, but it is very difficult to absorb the horrible acts perpetrated on innocent people and the suffering they endured. It crushes my heart to know and be reminded in such graphic and violent detail that humans can treat other humans with such brutality. And I find it chilling that human trafficking is not only a terrible thing of the past but something that is happening now, all over the world.

I was really intrigued by the descriptions of the haenyeo that were included in this book and would like to read The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See at some point.

message 2: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 4887 comments I loved this book too and I felt the same way. I felt so sad for all the women and families that were not able to even talk about it. It might have helped them reduce the shame they felt, and put it where it belonged.

The author made the life of a haenyeo sound really special. I picked up The Island of the Sea Women, but I don't think I'll have time to read it before it's due back to the library.

message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8155 comments How did I not know that this book that everyone has been reviewing also featured in life and culture of the haenyeo?

message 4: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7644 comments Amy wrote: "How did I not know that this book that everyone has been reviewing also featured in life and culture of the haenyeo?"

That is a great question as almost every review has mentioned it and we have had lengthy discussions about whether to read The Island of Sea Women next! lol

message 5: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8155 comments Oh Nicole, if I read every review in depth, I would be doing nothing else in life! Most of them have started out by saying what they thought about the book or something about the sisters and their stories. I swear to God this is the first time I saw the word haenyeo in the first few lines! Or i didn’t register the word before reading Island. Usually more swift I think!

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