To me, this book felt like a timely read. Set in the present, it follows three young peoples' struggle to survive in the ugly miasma that is the Chinese border town edging North Korea. The desperate take on risks hoping to recreate their lives. Lee’s book is fast-paced and elegantly written. Sharing each protagonist’s perspective individually, we somehow still come to understand the complexity of their collective experience. Powerful read.— Karen
"Lee takes us into urgent and emotional novelistic terrain: the desperate and tenuous realms defectors are forced to inhabit after escaping North Korea. Adam Johnson, author ofThe Orphan Master's Son
"The more confusing and horrible our world becomes, the more critical the role of fiction in communicating both the facts and the meaning of other people's lives. Krys Lee joins writers like Anthony Marra, Khaled Hosseini and Elnathan John in this urgent work." San Francisco Chronicle
Yongju is an accomplished student from one of North Korea's most prominent families. Jangmi, on the other hand, has had to fend for herself since childhood, most recently by smuggling goods across the border. Then there is Danny, a Chinese-American teenager whose quirks and precocious intelligence have long made him an outcast in his California high school.
These three disparate lives converge when they flee their homes, finding themselves in a small Chinese town just across the river from North Korea. As they fight to survive in a place where danger seems to close in on all sides, in the form of government informants, husbands, thieves, abductors, and even missionaries, they come to form a kind of adoptive family. But will Yongju, Jangmi and Danny find their way to the better lives they risked everything for?
Transporting the reader to one of the least-known and most threatening environments in the world, and exploring how humanity persists even in the most desperate circumstances, How I Became a North Korean is a brilliant and essential first novel by one of our most promising writers.
A FINALIST FOR THE 2016 CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE
Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal
One ofThe Millions' most anticipated books of the second half of 2016
One ofElle.com's "11 Best Books to Read in August"
One of Bookpage's"Six Stellar Summer Debuts"
About the Author
Krys Lee is the author of the short story collection Drifting House and How I Became a North Korean. She is a recipient of the Rome Prize and the Story Prize Spotlight Award, the Honor Title in Adult Fiction Literature from the Asian/Pacific American Libraries Association, and a finalist for the BBC International Story Prize. Her fiction, journalism, and literary translations have appeared in Granta, The Kenyon Review, Narrative, San Francisco Chronicle, Corriere della Sera, and The Guardian, among others. She is an assistant professor of creative writing and literature at Yonsei University, Underwood International College, in South Korea.