Jia: A Novel of North Korea

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Overview

The gentle daughter of a dancer who died at her birth and a father who was "disappeared" for owning foreign books, Jia grows up in a North Korea mountain gulag where her grandparents have been sent as punishment for their son's supposed treason. When her grandfather manages to smuggle her out of the gulag, Jia's hourney takes her first to an orphanage in Pyongyang and then to a dance school where she performs for foreign dignitaries and the Great Leader himself. As life in the capital city worsens, Jia and her ...
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Jia: A Novel of North Korea

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Overview

The gentle daughter of a dancer who died at her birth and a father who was "disappeared" for owning foreign books, Jia grows up in a North Korea mountain gulag where her grandparents have been sent as punishment for their son's supposed treason. When her grandfather manages to smuggle her out of the gulag, Jia's hourney takes her first to an orphanage in Pyongyang and then to a dance school where she performs for foreign dignitaries and the Great Leader himself. As life in the capital city worsens, Jia and her friends struggle to survive the "capricious political winds" of modern North Korea.

All but closed to outside visitors and influence, North Korea is among the most opague nations on earth. In her affecting debut, Hyejin Kim illuminates this troubled country from within. Based on true eventsm, Jia is the first novel about present-day North Korea to be published in English.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
This debut novel gives readers a rare glimpse into both historical and modern North Korea through the eyes of Jia, whose life begins with her mother's death; the publisher is calling it "the first novel about present-day North Korea to be published in English."Kim, who frequently writes on Asian issues, crafts an unsettling account of a North Korean woman caught up in events she neither controls nor understands. As a small child, Jia leaves the hard-scrabble mountain home of her fraternal grandparents against her will and travels to the city of Pyongyang to join her other grandparents. Jia, whose long limbs serve as a constant point of comparison with her mother-a beautiful dancer married to a rebellious teacher-is rejected by her mother's father. Consigned to an orphanage, she matures into a natural dancer, leaving the institution only when a troupe chooses her to perform at an important celebration. Trained in the art of traditional Korean song and dance, Jia settles into a satisfying, if not very exciting, existence, but when the leadership of her country changes, so does everything else. No stranger to hardship and with little left to lose, she struggles with cruelty, loneliness and hunger before making a desperate decision. Like Jia, the author also struggles through this story, populating it with characters who never seem to resolve their issues. They pop up and disappear like literary whack-a-moles. Family, friends, teachers, a suitor and a young, injured boy all make appearances, but appear only as convenient pegs upon which to hang the plot. Hampered by a persistently passive voice, the action is contrived, and the novel's resolution unsatisfying as a series of events converge tobring the story to a halt, leaving behind lots of loose ends. In need of better editing and character development, the book fails to generate reader empathy. Reads more like an unedited first draft.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573442756
  • Publisher: Cleis Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Pages: 247
  • Sales rank: 1,442,803
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 20, 2012

    A story of life in North Korea

    I selected this book because of an interest in what it is like, to live in North Korea under the crazy dictatorship that rules this country. The events in Jia's life are a composite created by Hywjin, as a result of many interviews with North Koreans living in China. The story describes how unbelievably difficult life is but people still fall in love, hearts still get broken and peoples life's are destroyed in attempts to just live. My only negative comment is the story was to short , I wanted to know more about Jia and what becomes of her in China. The result of the read just confirms my opinion that North Korea is a bad place, but life goes on even here. Glad I read the book.
    .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    No frills, no fuss. The story speaks for itself.

    No frills, no fuss. The story speaks for itself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2009

    Great!

    when i read this book, i was astounded by what was going on in North Korea. I think everyone should read this amazing book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2008

    AMAZING

    this book was so good and is one of my favorites! a must read!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2008

    Amazing look into the hidden world of North Korea

    Most of us have only a very small idea of what life is like in North Korea. Jia is listed as a novel, but it was based on stories dictated by a North Korean woman who escaped the country. In that sense, it feels more like a work of non-fiction. I found the book to be educational and enjoyable. Jia is a fascinating story about one little girl's ordinary life within a dictatorial regime. While we readers view her circumstances as extraordinarily harsh and brutal, she knows no other life and has no idea that life outside North Korea can be good. As you read this novel, you'll laugh. You'll cry. And mostly, you'll root for Jia. She'll quickly capture your heart. Great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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