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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North…

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2009)

by Barbara Demick

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  1. 62
    Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle (lorax)
    lorax: Pyongyang is an outsider's view of the one part of the country where foreigners are generally permitted; Nothing to Envy is an inside look at ordinary life elsewhere in the country where the situation is even grimmer.
  2. 20
    Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad by Melanie Kirkpatrick (one-horse.library)
  3. 20
    Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Stbalbach, rebeccanyc)
    Stbalbach: Amazing story of escape from a North Korea prison camp.
    rebeccanyc: Demick's book explores the lives of several people who lived in and escaped from North Korea, while Harden's focuses on one individual who was born in and escaped from a North Korean slave labor camp. The two books complement each other.
  4. 00
    This is Paradise!: My North Korean Childhood by Hyok Kang (justine28)
    justine28: This is Paradise is a first-hand account of North Korean regime and especially the 1990s famine as experienced by a defector. Very similar to the stories gathered by Demick - a journalist. The two books complement each other.
  5. 00
    Kim Il-song's North Korea by Helen-Louise Hunter (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Credited in Nothing To Envy as one of the sources of info about DPRK.
  6. 00
    Tibetan Diary: From Birth to Death and Beyond in a Himalayan Valley of Nepal by Geoff Childs (meggyweg)
  7. 03
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (weener)
    weener: One is fiction, one is non-fiction. One is in Latin America, one is in Asia. Both are heartbreaking, deeply affecting tales of life under totalitarianism.

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» See also 327 mentions

English (90)  Italian (1)  All languages (91)
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
Like most people in the world, I know next to nothing about North Korea. In fact, until last year, I admit that all my knowledge about North Korea derived from the US media coverage of their nuclear threats and militaristic actions, which invariably led to uninformed blanket statements like, "Ugh, why don't we just preventatively nuke the entire country and get it over with?"

To anyone who thought like I did a mere year ago, I recommend NOTHING TO ENVY. This is probably the most accessible book for the general public that depicts the lives of 20-million-plus people who aren't part of Kim Jong-Il's bravado-wielding troupe. In it are people who, for most of their lives, rarely, if ever, gave a thought to the hypocrisy and brainwashing of their country's "educational system." These are people who are merely struggling to survive, to attain a job that supports them in an era of famine, that pleases their parents, that makes themselves happy as well. These are people trying to fall in love in an anachronistic society where social "castes" basically still exist and are deadly to cross.

To understand North Korea, you need to understand the gulags, the 21st-century concentration work camps. You need to understand the party insiders that surround and build upon the Kim family's paranoia and delusions. And you need to understand the ones who get the least coverage in our media: the ordinary citizens, people who, but for a cruel twist of fate (if you believe in that stuff), are forced to live in North Korea, and not in another country where they could be free. ( )
  stephxsu | Apr 12, 2014 |
This book chronicles the lives of several ordinary families from North Korea, first describing their lives there in detail in the North, then telling of their escapes through China and finally, briefly, of their new lives in South Korea. It is an amazing job of reporting. The author respects the lives and stories of the individuals who must have spent hours telling her of their past. Each story remains the person's own story while also adding to our knowledge of the bleak but mysterious world of North Korea. ( )
  gbelik | Mar 14, 2014 |
This is an incredible work of narrative reporting. It’s also a vital document that gives voice to the citizens of a nation that’s committed probably the worst repression of free will in modern history--a nation that keeps its people believing they have “nothing to envy” and that things are much worse in the rest of the world. It’s assembled from a series of interviews with a handful of North Koreans who defected to South Korea at enormous risk, and their stories give a deeply human dimension to what everyone in the first world knows mostly through headlines alone.

One by one, these North Koreans--Oak-hee, Mrs. Song, Mi-ran, Hyuck, and Jun-sang, among others--come to face a snowballing misery: theirs is a country without electricity, industry, or even privacy, abandoned by once-Communist nations turned westward, wracked by starvation, and blanketed with the constant threat of execution for even a whiff of dissent to Kim Jong-il’s delusional, nuclear arms-obsessed regime (which still refers to the dead Kim Il-sung as “eternal leader.”) But out of hunger and desperation--and as untold hundreds of thousands (and eventually as many as 2 million) of their countrymen die of famine--these increasingly intrepid North Koreans come to “unlearn a lifetime of propaganda” and conjure the will to survive. Their dramatic escapes, and their struggles to start bewildering and often seriously disorienting new lives in South Korea, are hallmarks of one of the most enthralling awakenings anyone could imagine.

Highly recommended. ( )
  Hanneri | Feb 22, 2014 |
Well-written account of everyday life for people in North Korea. While my ignorance about the collapse of North Korea's infrastructure and the terrible famine during the 1990s can be partially excused by the fact that their own government works hard to conceal these things, I am embarrassed by how little I knew. The lives Demick describes are not primarily of downtrodden oppressed people who burned with the desire to overthrow the system or even to escape the system, but of people who truly believed in communism and Kim Il-sung and were bewildered by how wrong it all went. In this "information age", it was truly frightening to learn how isolated the North Korean people are with no access to information other than what is provided by the government, especially outside the capital. Unlike the students in Tianmen Square, these people have no Internet access and most don't have even state-run television or radio.

Demick does a good job of showing how people adjust as things went from good to not so good to terrible. These are the stories of survivors & I am fairly sure that I would not have been able to cope with the deprivations and restrictions that these people faced. The ingenuity and resiliance displayed is amazing, heart-wrenching and yet uplifting... ( )
  leslie.98 | Feb 17, 2014 |
I thought that the individual stories were an effective way of communicating how people survive (or not) in North Korea - the same facts told in a more abstract manner would not have had the same impact. I found all of it affecting, and the section on the famine almost unbearable. Because it follows the lives of six defectors, it is gripping and accessible.- you see behind the rather disturbing scenes of goose stepping and mass hysteria and begin to have an inkling of what living under such a regime does to people. ( )
1 vote vestafan | Jan 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
Barbara Demick's book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea opens with a nighttime satellite image of northeast Asia that shows the bright lights of South Korea and China. In the middle of the photograph is a dark spot — a nation of 23 million people that has little electricity.
added by bongiovi | editNPR (Jan 6, 2010)
Nothing to Envy – the title comes from a piece of propaganda aimed at hoodwinking gullible North Korean citizens – is a fascinating work which highlights in the lives of the individuals concerned the triumph of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.
Elegantly structured and written, Nothing To Envy is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction.
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If you look at satellite photographs of the far east by night, you'll see a large splotch curiously lacking in light.
[...] she couldn't deny what was staring her plainly in the face: dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385523912, Paperback)

A National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle finalist, Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy is a remarkable view into North Korea, as seen through the lives of six ordinary citizens
Award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and through meticulous and sensitive reporting we see her subjects fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we witness their profound, life-altering disillusionment with the government and their realization that, rather than providing them with lives of abundance, their country has betrayed them.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:57 -0400)

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Follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years, a chaotic period that saw the rise to power of Kim Jong Il and the devastation of a famine that killed one-fifth of the population, illustrating what it means to live under the most repressive totalitarian regime today.… (more)

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