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

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2003

    Truly extraordinary

    This is an amazing life story. After finishing the book, I felt instictively drawn to experience anew the power of compassion and tenderness. If we could only live with the full intesity with which Elizabeth Kim celebrates love and joy, perhaps then we would not take for granted the simple happiness of knowing that we are loved. This book is among one of the best memoirs I have read--you will deifnitely be moved and empowered.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An Immensely Touching Memoir ...

    Loved this book so much !! Elizabeth Kim has a very unique style of describing her past events and how these events have affected her. She has an individualistic way of applying adjectives. The words just flow like the wind; in such a beautiful way. She has brought out the obvious in the characterizations from person to person. She also had the strength within herself to expose the ones in her life, who have drastically pushed and pulled her emotionally. There is no holding back for this woman, regarding the diversified experiences that have occurred in her life. God bless her ...

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Elizabeth Kim Ten Thousand Sorows Review by Professor S Pryor(ROK)

    I waited until Ihad time to read this small book, and I read it from cover to cover in 1 4-5 hour sitting!
    The story is not new to me, but each time I read another Korean suvivors story I get a better understanding of this elusive culture.
    Altho I have lived in Korea and taught there for nearly a decade South Korea and her traditions are like layers and layers of the thinest tissue wrapping something small, precious and unique, unbelievably unique.
    Anyone considering adoption of a child from another country should read this account.
    Anyone considering really living in ROK should read this account.
    Kim tells her story candidly but with a naievity that is almost as frightening as the story...
    I would love to retrace her steps....and those steps of others in similar situations, no one can know what it is like to be a one should ever feel like this and yet many of these feelings still underpin the traditions and cultural practices of various countries - and if one bothers to understand the historic culture of Korea altho what happened to Kim was/is barbaric it is the result of a country that has been abused and bullied and stripped of it's clothing and left naked many Paulo Friere says 'There are oppressors and the oppressed and there is very little difference between them, when the oppressed are oppressed they declare they'd never treat any one like that, but when they rise above their oppression and their oppressors they in fact inflict the same ... an so the cycle goes.' Kim and others like her are paving the road to a new way a new path...of healing and hurt and honesty and somehow being better people despite all..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book was great. I read this awhile ago, but the portrait of the orphanage still sticks out in my mind. Also, I could not believe the amount of racism she faced as a half-American and half-Korean child. Her mother protected her, and its this love for her mother that makes it hard for her to adjust to her life in America. While I understand that she didn't want to hear the fundamentalist view that her mother, since she was not a Christian, was going to hell, I felt that besides this, her fundamentalist's parents offered her a much better life. It horrifies me to think what type of life she would have had if she stayed in the Korean orphanage, what kind of life the other orphans faced. The book ends on a hopeful note, though, as she develops independence, enabling her to raise her child with love & maintain a job.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2002


    There's no doubt that Elizabeth's childhood was one of extraordinary tragedy and her personal memoir of the years to follow, equally heartwrenching. Still, the most traumatic blow to her young life occurs in the beginning of the book when her mother is tortured and killed by her own father and brother in this supposed 'honor killing' which she claims is an acceptable practice in Korea. I am a Korean, and after having checked and double checked with my relatives and theirs who are of the same era and some of similar rural background, I am convinced that this is absolutely not true. I have a need to clarify this fact as they are (as I'm sure all Koreans who know of this would most definately be) abhored by such ludicrous accusation about our culture. There is no such thing as honor killing in Korea.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2002


    This is one cool book... I'm korean, and after reading this book, made me realize what I take for granted. I learned alot more about the korean culture. I recommend everyone to read this awesome book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2001

    Distorted, stereotyped misrepresentation of Korea

    Doubleday released a press statement back in November 2000 that admits they did not have sufficient evidence to have stated that there is a tradition of honor killings in Korea, a practice that became a 'hot topic' after the media reported it in some countries like Pakistan and Turkey. The most Doubleday will do is promise to change the text in the next printing so that the term 'honor killing' is not used. Well, then, they never should have published it. I am a Korean American with an M.A. in East Asian Languages & Cultures, and I can attest that this book is grossly distorted with some of the worst stereotypes about Asia. While some readers may cite the author's right to her own memories, particularly in America as an adoptee, the entire basis of this book's sensationalism revolves around the 'honor killing' incident in Korea, and in that vein, Kim crosses the line of one's own personal memory into outrageous statements of 'fact' about Korea. Despite people's protestations that this is JUST a memoir, let me remind you that the book purports to tell the 'truth' about Korean culture. Ms. Kim is not giving her subjective opinion here; she is making a ludicrous accusation about an entire culture. There is a HUGE difference between saying that 'Women experience discrimination in Korean society,' versus killing women in Korea is 'not murder, they are honor killings, sanctified by tradition.' Ms. Kim is quite literally stating that Korea permits and endorses the killing of women for the sake of family honor, a gross error even if it were a work of fiction. This is NOT memory, but a statement to be read erroneously as FACT. But Americans prefer to blur the difference as a 'fine point.' But is it fair for Ms. Kim to attribute a barbaric and backwards cultural practice to Korea that doesn't exist to her 'memory' as a child when she cannot even remember her name, her age, her town, her mother's name, etc.? Strange how she can unequivocally 'remember' a detailed Korean cultural tradition when she can't seem to remember the basic facts that allow anyone to verify her story. Plus, her mistransliterations and her numerous mistakes about the Korean language and culture make it doubtful that she is culling anything from actual memory, but from cultural guidebooks she has read in her adulthood. Domestic abuse and violence against women have occurred in every country, including this one. But if I were to write a memoir about the death of my mother in the U.S. and attribute it to America's 'honor killing' tradition, I would be publicly ridiculed and have zero chances at finding a publisher who would buy it. I could not hide behind the weak excuse that 'this is my life' or 'this is my memory,' because the facts are simply wrong! But I guess it's OK to say it about Korea since we are so ignorant about it and form our opinions about other countries from racist propaganda, TV stereotypes and bad books like these. The Associated Press already printed an article about the controversy surrounding this issue, and numerous Korean scholars, experts and several national magazines have pointed out egregious errors in the story and the distorted misrepresentations, particularly in the first 1/3 of this book. One scholar has collected more than 15 pages of errors! Korea, like any country, has its problems and its cultural sticking points. But ignorance of this magnitude is inexcusable. The majority of you who are defending it, quite frankly, do not speak, read or write Korean and know very little about Korea. There are a few who DO know about Korea and think that it's OK to criticize Korea for it's male-dominated society with this simple, minor 'gaffe.' That is a mistake. To allow this misrepresentation to continue is to perpetuate gross misunderstanding and ignorance that insults and slanders the people and descendants of Korea, including myself. But rather than discern the truth, we would all rather have a 'good read' at the expense of

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2001

    Starkly told realism

    Elizabeth Kim's stylistic strength is the child-like simplicity of her telling of a story that should never have to be told. Caught between two worlds, she is injured by both. Does the story go on too long? If it were shorter, readers would want to know how she's doing now. Well, she tells us, and gives us as happy an ending as life could make for such a horrible start. Yet she really reveals herself, and her love for her Mother. What a fighter, what a survivor. This is a 'pro-life' story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, all through childhood. It's not easy to take some of the scenes. But here she is, in a way a 'bridge' spanning two cultures, determined to live despite the contempt she faces, first from one world, then from another. I would recommend this book for adults.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2001

    be ready to face the reality

    it IS an 'extraordinary journey of an Korean War Orphan.' but the main focus is the ::journey:: not of being a korean nor being an orphan although it plays a major factor in its story. the will to endure such pain and hardship is admirable. the love and compassion for the unfortunate should be learned. Ten Thousand Sorrow not only tells the story of the life of a Korean Orphan but also teaches us the value of love, family, and search for identity. everyone must MUST definitely read this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2001

    Very touching story about true 'love' 'sacrifice'

    This book is real- the character defines herself through a very diffcult and important years of 'childhood' life. This book will make the reader to really feel the importance of love.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2000

    a brilliant parody of the mawkish memoir genre

    Kim has written a wonderful parody of the new trend for self-pitying memoirs - the hilariously over-the-top title alone is reason enough to buy the book. But even cleverer is the way she takes ho-hum childhood unpleasantness and elevates it to the level of trauma. She had to wash the dishes growing up! The other students in class didn't like her book report! The reason I know this must be a parody is that Kim cleverly strews the book with tip-offs that the story is not true. For example, she says she was watching The Elephant Man on television with her husband in the mid 1970s, years before the movie was even released in theaters. She also parodies the growing gullibility of memoir readers by leaving out all names, facts, locations - the story has a fairy tale feel to it which I'm sure was intentional. Thank you, Elizabeth Kim, for a very entertaining read -

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2000

    From Another Searching Spirit...

    Being married happily to another person who grew up in this country with the prejudice faced by one who is half-Korean, half-Caucasian, we both sobbed and rejoiced along with Elizabeth as she recounted her life-long struggles with self-image, love, the cruelty of dogmatic religeon, and gradual self-fulfillment. We've both fallen in love with her, and wish only that we could somehow tell her so. Daniel and Ben

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2000


    Being an avid reader of Asian non-fiction, I was excited to run into Ten Thousand Sorrows and since I am also Korean I was anxious to relate to some issues. I think it's a great plot...Elizabeth Kim went through terrible hardships and I thought it would be very interesting to read. It's been over a month since I bought the book and I still can not get myself to finish it. I keep picking it up to finish, but I find myself rather selecting other books first. The first few pages were enjoyable, but I think it's very repetitive and I just could not stand the way she kept emphasizing her goodness and how she did this and she was the perfect child and she didn't do anything wrong and she seems to remember every single detail. It's hard to believe that everything is true and although it is a very sad story, it seems largely exaggerated. I would recommend people to borrow this book from the library, but don't go out of your way to buy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2000

    powerful and moving

    This is an amazingly personal narration that cannot fail to reach any reader. The author has used simple and powerful language to describe the horrors she has been through as well as the fragile links that helped keep her afloat. My heart goes out to Ms. Kim and her daughter and wishes them well. Amazingly, the author has skillfully avoided using the the book to lambast others with blame. The inner strength demonstrated by the author seems to have been dervived from her short but sweet life with her Omma.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2000

    left wondering

    I couldn't put down the first part of the book wondering how difficult life must havebeen for her. However, I couldn't read through all the Christian teachings in the middle. It seemed to drag on forever. As she enters adulthood and marriage, I felt sorry for her again. Then all of a sudden, her life travels rather quickly through the pages and the book was over. I was left wondering how she got the name Kim, what became of her daughter (her strength), and what is crrently doing. I thought her story should be a calling to the lives of Asian women and the struggles they bear in their home countries.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2000

    One of the best memoirs I ever read!

    I enjoy reading the memoirs, especially when the story is about an Asian woman. Like Memoirs of a Geisha and Falling Leaves, I really enjoyed reading this book. When I was reading the author's childhood both in Korea and in the U.S., my heart just went out for that little girl and wanted to make everything better for her. She went through so much physically and emotionally, and yet, she overcame all those obstacles and became a strong woman. I strongly believe that her Omma would be very pleased the way author survived and not giving up her life. Also, I would like to give my hands to Leigh, who supported her mother the whole time. I have read this book in three hours first time, and at this moment I am on my second reading of this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2000

    A human story...

    This is a superb and excellent book that I enjoyed immensely because of the author¡¯s willingness to completely share her very personal story. Hers is one important story of the 200,000 children of Korean descent who were adopted overseas. Elizabeth¡¯s dual voices show: the professional journalist voice in the clarity and depth of her narrative and the poet¡¯s voice that transforms her work into one that shows the reflecting pool of her life in it¡¯s many subtleties and textures. It is the storm of chance that creates and propels Elizabeth¡¯s life. Through her narrative, we can imagine Elizabeth as a child born into difficult circumstances (a mixed race child in Korea), adopted by American parents who are exceptionally difficult, and her difficult and torturous adulthood. After reading the book, I imagined Elizabeth¡¯s story as one of a little girl rowing in a small dinghy caught in a storm of biblical proportions: lightening flashing, sea sick high waves, driving sheets of rain, and violent and shrieking winds. We root for her as she rows forward through the storm of life; we cringe with fear on her behalf on the battering that she takes from the life waves; and we applaud her search for the calm seas and the shores of sanity. The warm glow from her birth mother¡¯s spirit is the lodestar that guides Elizabeth, and this spirit provides us hope that perhaps there is a whisper of chance that Elizabeth will arrive on the shores of sanity and love. As I read the book, I feared for Elizabeth, the child and the adult, and hoped that her experiences in her tortuous life have not embittered her, that her scars both physical and emotional have healed. Perhaps that is too much, for surely her experiences would have left most of us bitter, angry, and emotionally distant. Perhaps the great emotional wounds that she has suffered neither the time of healing or even the healing herbs of the Centaur would provide the necessary healing properties. And against all hope, against all logic, against all reason, we find out if Elizabeth triumphs and provides us, the reader, that most important and wonderful graces that life provides us: hope. With all my being and soul, I believe that Elizabeth¡¯s birth mother¡¯s spirit would be both happy and proud of her achievements in life and this wondrous book. Peter K. Kwak

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