You are five years old and your parents and sister love you and spoil you. You love going to school and playing with your friends. Your mother cooks your favorite foods and your father creates toys for you and your friends.
Then one day, without warning, the food gets scarcer and scarcer. There are no more toys, and you miss school in order to scrounge for food. A vast and dismal landscape of orphaned children, gangs of thugs, and dead bodies replaces the warm and happy landscape that you knew.
Is this the plot of a young adult's dystopian novel? It could be. Instead, it is the story of Joseph Kim, a child of North Korea, who lost his family and was homeless at 11 years old due to the famous famine of the 1990s and the brutal uncaring Kim dynasties. Joseph kept alive the only way possible for him, by begging, stealing, working in dangerous coal mines, fighting and joining gangs.
At thirteen, completely alone, dressed in rags and starving, he crossed into China, not caring if the Border Guards saw him. Still considering himself a thief, he learned that something called "churches" and "Christians" would give him food and money. Eventually, an American charity, "Liberty in North Korea (LiNK)," found him and brought him to the United States. You may have watched his TED Talk from Scotland or read a newspaper article about. Neither conveys the horror that a whole generation of North Korean children faced when their parents could no longer feed them and their government abandoned them. The true magnitude of the famine is unknown due to lack of information. Some reports estimate the death toll at 2 million.
This is not a brutal future depicted in a science fiction book, this is North Korea today. Joseph Kim survived in ways that would have destroyed most of us. His story deserves to be read.
Print Length: 293 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books (June 2, 2015)
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt