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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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1,6411084,395 (4.42)372
Recently added byFlorenceArt, Jaylia3, syncione, rexparte, ktbarnes, boyboffin, Madana.Joy, private library, asama527
  1. 72
    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. 30
    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.
  3. 20
    Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad by Melanie Kirkpatrick (TomWaitsTables)
  4. 10
    Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both books are compelling, fascinating reads. Nothing to Envy covers a broad scope, and Without You, There is No Us has a tight focus. They explore the North Korean regime from different angles.
  5. 10
    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. 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.
  8. 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 372 mentions

English (105)  Italian (1)  All languages (106)
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
This non-fiction work takes a look at the repressive and dysfunctional North Korean regime of Kim Il-sung and his successor Kim Jong-il through the stories of individual North Korean citizens who ultimately defected to China and South Korea. The stories told by those that survived the economic collapse and subsequent famine are chilling.

I’ve read several works focusing on North Korea, and all face the same hurdle of getting reliable information from such a tightly controlled, xenophobic culture. Indoctrinated at a very young age, citizens literally starve to death while continuing to idolize and worship the very people responsible for the barbaric conditions in which they try to survive. It is the individual stories that help to bring an understanding of how such a thing can happen and provide the most reliable account of what life in North Korea is actually like.

The time frame of these accounts spans approximately 15 years, including the period encompassing the death of Kim il-Sung, the ascension of his son and the disastrous famine that ensued. It ends in about 2009, prior to the death of Kim Jong-il and the current regime. ( )
  santhony | May 6, 2015 |
This is not an easy book to read. I don't regret having read it, but I have difficulty recommending it. If you are at all sensitive to descriptions of others' suffering, approach this book with caution. In many ways it reminds me of the stories of Holocaust survivors.

The stories this book tells are intensely personal. The author's clear voice and strong opinions provide a window through the memories of a select few North Korean refugees. The horrors and pain of the North Korean experience bleed through into even the happy portions of the book. ( )
  wishanem | Jan 27, 2015 |
The title truly speaks what my sentiments evolved into as the stories came along. Nothing about the North Korean life portrayed in this piece was enviable or admirable... but it was a look inside an otherwise completely isolated and unknown world that I had never seen before. ( )
  ReverendMoon | Jan 26, 2015 |
Barbara Demick, a journalist for the Los Angeles Times who spent years interviewing defectors from North Korea (and who managed to make trips into the country itself), tells the stories of 6 defectors, while at the same time giving the reader a detailed and harrowing picture of what it is like to live in a totalitarian state. While it is obvious that the six main people make it to South Korea (otherwise, how would Demick have gotten their stories?), the grueling experiences most of them went through during the famine of the 90's and the general goings-on of the dictatorship was enough to keep me horrified and engaged in the book. It was really interesting to read each of their stories; how they came to realize the lies their government has been telling them, and the choice they made to defect.

I of course know that North Korea is ruled by an oppressive dictator (and has been for decades), but I had no idea what everyday life was like for these people, and how many of them accepted their situations and even viewed North Korea as the greatest country on Earth. I can't imagine how it must have been for people when they realized how stuck in the past their country actually was, and how horrible their way of life is compared to other countries. It amazes me that one regime can tell so many lies and keep their people in the dark. It really made me realize how much I take for granted as a white American. Demick provided many resources that she used when writing this book, and I am anxious to get my hands on a few books and articles that she cited.

This book was published in 2009. I would love it if Demick revisited this book, providing updates on the people she interviewed, as well as the state of North Korea since Kim Jong-un took over. Reading this book awakened a great interest in North Korea and its people. I highly recommend this book to all. ( )
  kaylaraeintheway | Jan 8, 2015 |
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. A vivid, novelistic account of North Korea through the eyes of defectors, extensively interviewed by the author. Also a fascinating study in state control and its ineffectiveness. It's only real success is the extent to which it kills its people off. HIghly recommended. ( )
  jdukuray | Dec 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 105 (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)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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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