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A Gift of the Emperor

Overview

A Gift of the Emperor is the poignant fictional account of real-life atrocities inflicted upon more than 200,000 Asian women by the Japanese military during World War II. This haunting story is narrated by Soon-ah, a Korean schoolgirl whose life is shattered when Emperor Hirohito's soldiers abduct her from her village and ship her and her schoolmates to a "house of relaxation" in the South Pacific. Here, on an island with surreal beauty, Soon-ah is forced into prostitution as a "comfort woman" to the Japanese ...
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Overview

A Gift of the Emperor is the poignant fictional account of real-life atrocities inflicted upon more than 200,000 Asian women by the Japanese military during World War II. This haunting story is narrated by Soon-ah, a Korean schoolgirl whose life is shattered when Emperor Hirohito's soldiers abduct her from her village and ship her and her schoolmates to a "house of relaxation" in the South Pacific. Here, on an island with surreal beauty, Soon-ah is forced into prostitution as a "comfort woman" to the Japanese military. This scorching account of one woman's endurance of sexual degradation and the unspeakable horror of war provides compelling testimony to the strength of the human spirit, the power of love over hate, and the ultimate triumph of hope over despair.

Rita Nakashima Brock, co-author of Casting Stone: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States wrote:

"The searing horrors of history come alive in stories that add flesh and blood to the dry bones of evidence and news reports. Therese Park has given us such a vivid story... Her intelligent, nuanced and humane work paints a portrait of human courage, hope, love, and survival under conditions most of us cannot even imagine..."

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Melissa Thacker
In 1942, soldiers come to seventeen-year-old Soon-ah's school in Korea to recruit volunteers for the Women's Army of Japan. The girls are led to believe they will serve as nurses or entertainers for the Japanese troops. They also are led to believe they have a choice whether to enlist or not, but the girls soon find out that "volunteering" is mandatory and that they will be used as comfort women or prostitutes for the emperor's war-weary troops. Having witnessed the assassination of her father, the rape of her mother, and the forced conscription of her older brother, Soon-ah is well acquainted with Japanese brutality, still, she is not prepared for the cruelty she experiences. Once installed in the comfort house, the girls are forced to service thirty to forty soldiers a day. However, Soon-ah escapes the comfort house when she meets and falls in love with a Japanese war correspondent, Sadamu. The two escape to a deserted island in the Pacific, eventually are rescued by an American ship, and are separated. Soon-ah is sent to a detention facility in Hawaii and Sadamu is recruited by the OSS. Although an interesting storyline, the writing is only mediocre. The story does not flow naturally; it seems to be a collection of scenes rather than a unified story. Readers never get to know Soon-ah or Sadamu, to understand who they are and what motivates their thoughts and actions. The subject requires descriptions that are graphic and brutal, which the author delivers. However, Park is not graphic enough to give a true picture of the horrors these girls faced. George Hick's nonfiction book The Comfort Women (Norton, 1995) details how difficult the lives of these young women really were. Pregnancy and disease were rampant. Soon-ah, even with all the brutality she encounters, has a much easier time than the real-life comfort women did. This book fills a gap in the historical fiction of World War II, but it is not one I would recommend. VOYA Codes: 2Q 2P S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Kirkus Reviews
Newcomer Park offers a graphic but stilted addition to the growing fiction (Nora Okja Keller's Comfort Woman, p. 161; Paul West's The Tent of Orange Mist, 1995, etc.) about Japanese exploitation of thousands of Asian women during WW II.

Soon-ah's father, a Presbyterian minister, is murdered by the occupying Japanese, her mother is raped, and her elder brother is drafted and sent to fight in the Pacific. Then the 17-year-old Korean schoolgirl herself is dragged from the cellar where she's been hiding. Like her classmates, she is chosen to be one of "the Emperor's special gifts to the soldiers," a cynical euphemism for a cruel reality. Within days of their capture, Soon-ah and her friends are transported to a Japanese troopship bound for the Pacific war zone. Soon-ah, who narrates her own story, vividly describes the mass rapes by the drunken soldiers on board; the numbing life of bad food and daily multiple sexual encounters once at the camp; the outbreak of one disease after another; her own aborted pregnancy; and her growing friendship with Sadamu, a war correspondent, who interviews her so that he can expose the actions of the Japanese military. Eventually, Soon-ah is moved to a brothel that services only officers, and where conditions are slightly better, but Sadamu, now in love with her, suggests they escape. The two take a boat to a tropical island, but even it has been contaminated by war—they find and bury bodies of US Marines recently killed there. After the US Navy rescues them, the couple must part: Sadamu joins the OSS, and Soon-ah stays in Hawaii. At war's end, she's repatriated to a now-divided Korea for a bittersweet reunion with her remaining family.

War crimes against women are memorably described here, but, sadly, by characters that seem more like one-dimensional witnesses than vibrantly complex fictional creations.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780595350056
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Pages: 252
  • Sales rank: 1,233,921
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.57 (d)

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