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Still Life With Rice

by Helie Lee

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1522132,836 (4.06)None
"A captivating memoir of a courageous survivor" (Publishers Weekly) and "a window onto the panorama of modern Korean history" (St. Petersburg Times) this is a radiant and engaging story about a young American woman's discovery about the life of her Korean grandmother. Helie Lee's grandmother, Hongyong Baek, came of age in a unified but socially repressive Korea, where she was taught the roles that had been prescribed for her: obedient daughter, demure wife, efficient household manager. Ripped from her home first during the Japanese occupation and again during the bloody civil war that divided her country, Hongyong fought to save her family by drawing from her own talents and values. Over the years she proved her spirit indomitable, providing for her husband children by running a successful restaurant, building a profitable opium business, and eventually becoming adept at the healing art of ch'iryo. When she was forced to leave her country, she moved her family to California, where she reestablished her ch'iryo practice. Writing in her grandmother's voice, Helie Lee recreates an individual experience in a unique culture that is both seductively exotic and strangely familiar. With wit and verve, she claims her own Korean identity and illuminates the intricate experiences of Asian-American women in this century.… (more)
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The author goes to Korea in search of her identity, and discovers her grandmother's compelling story of growing up in a traditional Korean household, expatriating to China to escape the Japanese occupation, and returning only to survive the dramatic hardships of the Korean War. Her harrowing journey from the North to Pusan with an infant on her back and three little ones in tow, along with hundreds of thousands of refugees, fleeing the communists and being shot and bombed by American pilots, is an exceptional and memorable account of the war's harsh toll on civilians. Although Lee's language is stiff and her focus is sometimes narrow, the narrative exposes a rich history of a strong woman's rise from the lowly realm of womanhood, her fall through the losses from war and death of her family members, and rise again through through her spiritual strength and the practice of ch'iryo, a heavy-handed massage/healing art Chinese technique. Among the first publications in this genre. ( )
  sungene | Mar 7, 2008 |
A nice insight into the korean war. A womans story is only part of a touching story to guide us through the nightmares a family went through to live a comfortable life in the us ( )
  telmomom | Mar 3, 2008 |
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"A captivating memoir of a courageous survivor" (Publishers Weekly) and "a window onto the panorama of modern Korean history" (St. Petersburg Times) this is a radiant and engaging story about a young American woman's discovery about the life of her Korean grandmother. Helie Lee's grandmother, Hongyong Baek, came of age in a unified but socially repressive Korea, where she was taught the roles that had been prescribed for her: obedient daughter, demure wife, efficient household manager. Ripped from her home first during the Japanese occupation and again during the bloody civil war that divided her country, Hongyong fought to save her family by drawing from her own talents and values. Over the years she proved her spirit indomitable, providing for her husband children by running a successful restaurant, building a profitable opium business, and eventually becoming adept at the healing art of ch'iryo. When she was forced to leave her country, she moved her family to California, where she reestablished her ch'iryo practice. Writing in her grandmother's voice, Helie Lee recreates an individual experience in a unique culture that is both seductively exotic and strangely familiar. With wit and verve, she claims her own Korean identity and illuminates the intricate experiences of Asian-American women in this century.

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