How I Became A North Korean

How I Became A North Korean

Book - 2016
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"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 of  The 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.


Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal

One of The Millions' most anticipated books of the second half of 2016

One of's "11 Best Books to Read in August"

One of Bookpage 's "Six Stellar Summer Debuts"
Publisher: New York, New York : Viking, [2016]
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780670025688
Branch Call Number: FIC Lee
Characteristics: 246 pages


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May 14, 2018

This book tells three stories - the son of a prominent North Korean family whose father was killed by the leader, a pregnant woman with a difficult life sold to a Chinese farmer, and a Chinese-American teenager. All three are in China in the area bordering North Korea. Lee can tell a story of the hardships of those fleeing North Korea but I am uncertain of her perspective.

Feb 03, 2017

The publisher calls this a "novel," but it's really short stories. All the characters sound the same.

Aug 25, 2016


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