In the Absence of Sun: A Korean American Woman’s Promise to Reunite Three Lost Generations of Her Familyby Helie Lee
A breathtaking true story of a rescue mission undertaken by a young woman and her family in one of the most repressive countries in the world. Helie Lee often had heard her grandmother speak of an uncle, lost decades ago when he was a child during the family's daring escape from North Korea. As an adult, he was still living there under horrid conditions. When her grandmother began to ail, Helie became determined to reunite her with her eldest son, despite tremendous odds. Helie's mission became even more urgent when she realized that her first book, the bestselling novelStill Life with Rice, about the family's escape, might have angered the North Korean government and put her uncle in danger. Pushing through rivers and forests, fighting the cold, bribing and manipulating border guards, gangsters, and secret service agents, Helie and her father finally achieve their goal. But there are many hurdles. Her uncle is forced to make a harrowing choice: leave his North Korean family behind or continue to live in oppression and starvation away from his beloved mother. And Helie has to face her deep, sometimes ambivalent, emotions about her identity in the family and as a Korean American woman. Unmarried and outspoken, she struggles in Korea, where women marry early and keep silent, and writes eloquently about the landscape there, both literal and cultural. She comes through a heartbreaking love affair only to face an intense and confusing relationship with the Guide--the man who, despite being crude and macho, ultimately helps to save her uncle and eventually his extended family through several daring acts of heroism. In the Absence of Sunis a riveting adventure story and a powerful tale of family bonds and reunion. "An eerie fear crawled through my flesh as I stood on the Chinese side of the Yalu River, gazing across the murky water into one of the most closed-off and isolated countries in the world. I couldn't believe it. Even as my boots sank into the doughy mud, I had trouble coming to terms with the fact that I was actually standing there. . . . I was not prepared for the kind of despair and insane fear I felt that day. My wizened old uncle looked nothing like the sweet-faced teenager in the faded photograph that Halmoni kept pressed between the pages of her Bible. That day, at the Yalu River, staring helplessly into his terrorized face, I hadn't fully realized what a dangerous thing I had done the year before. I had placed him and his family in danger. By including details of my uncle's life in a book, I had alerted North Korea's enigmatic leadership to the identity of my relatives in a nation where it was better to remain invisible. " --FromIn the Absence of Sun From the Hardcover edition.
"In this radiant memoir of her grandmother's life, Helie Lee probes a history and a culture that are both seductively exotic and strangely familiar. And with wit and verve she claims her own Korean identity, illuminating the intricate experiences of Asian-American women." "Born in 1912 - "the year of the rat" - to aristocratic parents, Hongyong Baek came of age in a unified but socially repressive Korea, where she learned 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 provided for her husband and children by running a successful restaurant, building a profitable opium business, and eventually becoming adept at the healing art of Chiryo. When she was pressured to leave her country, she moved with her family to California, where she reestablished her Chiryo practice." "Writing in her grandmother's voice, Helie Lee depicts the concerns and conflicts that shaped one family's search for home. Evocative and keenly felt, Still Life with Rice interprets issues that touch all of us: the complex nature of family relations, the impact of social upheaval on an individual, and the rapidly changing lives of women in this century."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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