2021 NYC Big Book Award (Women's Fiction)
I will not be beautiful for you.
On the brink of WWII, sixteen-year-old Soon Ja is ensnared into the largest human trafficking scheme of the 20th century. She is taken to Manchuria by trickery from her home in occupied Korea and forced to become a comfort woman, a sex slave for members of the Imperial Japanese Army.
Taken from comfort station to comfort station, Soon Ja suffers terribly. She desperately tries to deal with the daily physical and mental torment of her unbearable situation. She struggles to survive by any means possible, which includes retaliating against her captors by spying on behalf of anti-Japanese resistance fighters. This gives her a renewed purpose that quickly fades once the resistance is defeated.
As the war progresses and years pass, Soon Ja's will to survive waxes and wanes as she surmounts one intolerable situation after another, bringing her the strength and courage that would shape the rest of her life.
Among the few books written about comfort women, they are mostly nonfiction. THE COMFORT BEARER is unique in that it is written in first person, involves both interesting and terrifying circumstances surrounding the war, and takes the reader to remote garrisons as well as cities in occupied Asia.
In order to stay alive, the protagonist must find a way to cope with the horrible abuse she has been subjected to, and as time passes, she develops survival skills she never thought possible including working with the resistance, becoming a war trophy to a general who is a beast, and finally, surviving by assuming the identity of her enemy, the Japanese.
After the passage of seven decades, political and humanitarian controversies surrounding the issue of comfort women, or as reportedly referred to by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, enforced sex slaves, still exist. Even today the issue of comfort women remains a hot topic of debate around the world.
Comfort women memorials have and continue to be placed around the world. Human trafficking remains a multi-billion-dollar industry. In preparing to write this book the author conducted extensive research into the circumstances and details surrounding Japan's war crimes against approximately 200,000 women and girls who were taken by the Japanese Imperial Army from the occupied areas of Asia to serve the soldiers as comfort women ... sex slaves.
THE COMFORT BEARER puts a human face on this injustice using a fictional character, Soon Ja who represents an amalgam of all those who suffered at the hands of the Japanese. These enslaved women suffered terribly. It is currently estimated that between 15,000 and 50,000 girls and women are trafficked into the U.S. every year and politicians have been holding hearings about it on Capitol Hill. Worldwide, human trafficking is in the millions, remaining an enormous ongoing problem.
"I thank this author for doing all the interviews she did to create this book. But, most of all, I thank her for the creation of Soon Ja from the women she met and spoke to. This is a girl-turned-woman who still had that fight - that slice of optimism and hope in a world that was truly hopeless. All I can say is, I wish my mom was still around to read this one; she would have been this author's biggest fan. 5 Stars!" - AMY LIGNOR, READER VIEWS