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Barbara Demick is the author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award and the winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize in the U.K., and Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood. Her books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Demick is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and a contributor to The New Yorker, and was recently a press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Following six North Koreans over the course of 15 years, Demick offers a haunting portrait of life in North Korea. Her subjects are instantly relatable-they fall in love, raise families-but as their country grows increasingly isolated, totalitarian, and repressive, and is ravaged by unemployment and famine, they risk everything to leave. Karen White delivers a stunning reading; her character interpretations are confident and well-rounded, and she forges a strong bond with the audience. Powerful without becoming overwrought, White handles the harrowing material with sensitivity and intelligence. An unforgettable listening experience that will resonate long after the final sentence. A Random hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 28). (Jan.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
For most Americans, North Korea, one of the last Communist dictatorships, is a totalitarian menace but socially a great blank space. Demick, a Los Angeles Times reporter based first in Seoul and now in Beijing, fills this void with well-rounded life stories based on seven years of interviews with individuals who escaped to South Korea or China. Mi-ran, for instance, as the daughter of a political outcast, could meet with her young man only after dark, when they would take advantage of the complete absence of electric lights to walk for miles and miles unobserved-without, however, going even so far as to hold hands. She could not let him know of her plans to leave for fear that the authorities would hold him responsible or that he would need to inform on her to protect his family. This and other life stories form a welcome portrait of "ordinary" lives in an extraordinary society. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in North Korea who want to supplement their political studies or simply enjoy the personal approach.-Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
"The narrow boundaries of our knowledge have expanded radically with the publication of Los Angeles Times correspondent Barbara Demick's Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. . . . Elegantly structured and written, Nothing To Envy is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction."-Slate "Excellent . . . lovely work of narrative nonfiction . . . a book that offers extensive evidence of the author's deep knowledge of this country while keeping its sights firmly on individual stories and human details."-New York Times "A deeply moving book."-Wall Street Journal "Superbly reported account of life in North Korea.''-Bloomberg "There's a simple way to determine how well a journalist has reported a story, internalized the details, seized control of the narrative and produced good work. When you read the result, you forget the journalist is there. Barbara Demick, the Los Angeles Times' Beijing bureau chief, has aced that test in "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea," a clear-eyed and deeply reported look at one of the world's most dismal places.''-Cleveland Plain Dealer "The ring of authority as well as the suspense of a novel.''-Washington Times "Excellent new book is one of only a few that have made full use of the testimony of North Korean refugees and defectors. A delightful, easy-to-read work of literary nonfiction, it humanizes a downtrodden, long-suffering people whose individual lives, hopes and dreams are so little known abroad that North Koreans are often compared to robots. . . . The tale of the star-crossed lovers, Jun-sang and Mi-ran, is so charming as to have inspired reports that Hollywood might be interested."--San Francisco Chronicle "In a stunning work of investigation, Barbara Demick removes North Korea's mask to reveal what lies beneath its media censorship and repressive dictatorship."-Daily Beast "In spite of the strict restrictions on foreign press, awardwinning journalist Demick caught telling glimpses of just how surreal and mournful life is in North Korea. . . . Strongly written and gracefully structured, Demick's potent blend of personal narratives and piercing journalism vividly and evocatively portrays courageous individuals and a tyrannized state."--Booklist "These are the stories you'll never hear from North Korea's state news agency."-New York Post "At times a page-turner, at others an intimate study in totalitarian psychology. Demick . . . takes us inside the minds of her subjects, rendering them as complex, often compelling characters--not the brainwashed parodies we see marching in unison in TV reports."-Philadelphia Inquirer "The last time I read a book with something truly harrowing or pitiful or sad on every page it was Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and those characters had the good fortune to not be real."-St. Louis Magazine