Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America

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A searing story of starvation and survival in North Korea, followed by a dramatic escape, rescue by activists and Christian missionaries, and success in the United States thanks to newfound faith and courage

Inside the hidden and mysterious world of North Korea, Joseph Kim lived a young boy’s normal life until he was five. Then disaster struck: the first wave of the Great Famine, a long, terrible ordeal that killed millions, including his father, and sent others, like his mother and only sister, on desperate escape routes into China. Alone on the streets, Joseph learned to beg and steal. He had nothing but a street-hardened survival instinct. Finally, in desperation, he too crossed a frozen river to escape to China.

There a kindly Christian woman took him in, kept him hidden from the authorities, and gave him hope. Soon, through an underground network of activists, he was spirited to the American consulate, and became one of just a handful of North Koreans to be brought to the U.S. as refugees. Joseph knew no English and had never been a good student. Yet the kindness of his foster family changed his life.  He turned a new leaf, became a dedicated student, mastered English, and made it to college, where he is now thriving thanks to his faith and inner strength. Under the Same Sky is an unforgettable story of suffering and redemption.
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About the author

JOSEPH KIM was born in North Korean in 1990. In 2007 he came to the United States, where he completed high school and went to college in New York City.

STEPHAN TALTY is the award-winning author of Agent Garbo, Empire of Blue Water, and other best-selling works of narrative nonfiction. His books have been made into two films, the Oscar-winning Captain Phillips and Granite Mountain. He is also the author of two psychological thrillers, including the New York Times bestseller Black Irish, set in his hometown of Buffalo. He has written for the New York Times Magazine, GQ, and many other publications. Talty now lives outside New York City with his family.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Published on
Jun 2, 2015
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780544373181
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Asia / Korea
Religion / Christian Life / Inspirational
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A haunting account of teaching English to the sons of North Korea's ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il's reign
 
Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki Kim, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields—except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room, and where Suki has gone undercover as a missionary and a teacher. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them English, all under the watchful eye of the regime.

Life at PUST is lonely and claustrophobic, especially for Suki, whose letters are read by censors and who must hide her notes and photographs not only from her minders but from her colleagues—evangelical Christian missionaries who don't know or choose to ignore that Suki doesn't share their faith. As the weeks pass, she is mystified by how easily her students lie, unnerved by their obedience to the regime. At the same time, they offer Suki tantalizing glimpses of their private selves—their boyish enthusiasm, their eagerness to please, the flashes of curiosity that have not yet been extinguished. She in turn begins to hint at the existence of a world beyond their own—at such exotic activities as surfing the Internet or traveling freely and, more dangerously, at electoral democracy and other ideas forbidden in a country where defectors risk torture and execution. But when Kim Jong-il dies, and the boys she has come to love appear devastated, she wonders whether the gulf between her world and theirs can ever be bridged.

Without You, There Is No Us offers a moving and incalculably rare glimpse of life in the world's most unknowable country, and at the privileged young men she calls "soldiers and slaves."
An eye-opening account of life inside North Korea—a closed world of increasing global importance—hailed as a “tour de force of meticulous reporting” (The New York Review of Books)
 
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST
 
In this landmark addition to the literature of totalitarianism, 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 (the father of Kim Jong-un), 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 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. She 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.

Praise for Nothing to Envy

“Provocative . . . offers extensive evidence of the author’s deep knowledge of this country while keeping its sights firmly on individual stories and human details.”—The New York Times

“Deeply moving . . . The personal stories are related with novelistic detail.”—The Wall Street Journal

“A tour de force of meticulous reporting.”—The New York Review of Books

“Excellent . . . humanizes a downtrodden, long-suffering people whose individual lives, hopes and dreams are so little known abroad.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“The narrow boundaries of our knowledge have expanded radically with the publication of Nothing to Envy. . . . Elegantly structured and written, [it] is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction.”—John Delury, Slate

“At times a page-turner, at others an intimate study in totalitarian psychology.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
An extraordinary memoir by a North Korean woman who defied the government to keep her family alive.

Born in the 1970s, Lucia Jang grew up in a common, rural North Korean household—her parents worked hard, she bowed to a photo of Kim Il-Sung every night, and the family scraped by on rationed rice and a small garden. However, there is nothing common about Jang. She is a woman of great emotional depth, courage, and resilience.

Happy to serve her country, Jang worked in a factory as a young woman. There, a man she thought was courting her raped her. Forced to marry him when she found herself pregnant, she continued to be abused by him. She managed to convince her family to let her return home, only to have her in-laws and parents sell her son without her knowledge for 300 won and two bars of soap. They had not wanted another mouth to feed.

By now it was the beginning of the famine of the 1990s that resulted in more than one million deaths. Driven by starvation—her family’s as well as her own—Jang illegally crossed the river to better-off China to trade goods. She was caught and imprisoned twice, pregnant the second time. She knew that, to keep the child, she had to leave North Korea. In a dramatic escape, she was smuggled with her newborn to China, fled to Mongolia under gunfire, and finally found refuge in South Korea before eventually settling in Canada.

With so few accounts by North Korean women and those from its rural areas, Jang's fascinating memoir helps us understand the lives of those many others who have no way to make their voices known.

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