Kim Hyun Sook has been working hard at her parents' restaurant to save money so that she can attend the local university. Her dream is to study literature, although her mother is sure she will be corrupted by all the students who spend their time protesting instead of studying. Her father, on the other hand, is sure she will succeed. At the university Kim Hyun Sook braves the protestors and goes to class before innocently joining a dance troupe and book club that are actually fronts for groups protesting the corrupt government. She eventually realizes that sometimes you have to take a stand, especially when an innocent act of reading a classic piece of literature is considered an act of sedition and is punishable with prison time. The year is 1983, and Kim Hyun Sook conveys her memories of those years with a fast-paced narrative that holds the reader's interest and provides historical details for those unfamiliar with the background of the Fifth Republic's military government in South Korea. The memoir ends by recapping what has happened since 1983 and with a warning that democracy doesn't just happen or maintain itself without work and even sacrifice on the part of the people. Violence is not explicitly portrayed, but is communicated in a way that leaves no doubt about what is happening to the victims. Teenagers will relate to Hyun Sook's conflicting struggle between being the good student/daughter and standing up for what she believes in. The narrative detailing her transition into adulthood is honest, fresh, and compelling. The poignancy of Ryan Estrada's black-and-white illustrations capture the brutality of treatment of those protesting the government and are sure to evoke strong emotions in the reader.
A Junior Library Guild Selection
When Kim Hyun Sook started college in 1983 she was ready for her world to open up. After acing her exams and sort-of convincing her traditional mother that it was a good idea for a woman to go to college, she looked forward to soaking up the ideas of Western Literature far from the drudgery she was promised at her family's restaurant. But literature class would prove to be just the start of a massive turning point, still focused on reading but with life-or-death stakes she never could have imagined.
This was during South Korea's Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protestors. In this charged political climate, with Molotov cocktails flying and fellow students disappearing for hours and returning with bruises, Hyun Sook sought refuge in the comfort of books. When the handsome young editor of the school newspaper invited her to his reading group, she expected to pop into the cafeteria to talk about Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Scarlet Letter. Instead she found herself hiding in a basement as the youngest member of an underground banned book club. And as Hyun Sook soon discovered, in a totalitarian regime, the delights of discovering great works of illicit literature are quickly overshadowed by fear and violence as the walls close in.
In BANNED BOOK CLUB, Hyun Sook shares a dramatic true story of political division, fear-mongering, anti-intellectualism, the death of democratic institutions, and the relentless rebellion of reading.