BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Princess Bari by Sok-yong Hwang, translated by Sora Kim-Russell [in Booklist]

Because she was the seventh daughter, Princess Bari – whose name means “abandoned” – was discarded as a baby only to return in triumph to save the world. Like her mythic Korean namesake, Bari is the unwanted seventh girl in a house desperate for sons. She’s initially abandoned by her mother, then saved by the family dog, and remains closest to her grandmother. Weaned on Grandmother’s fantastical tales, Bari inherits her ability for otherworldly communication.

Her early life is the calm before famine, before separations, and before deaths. Her Odyssean survival takes her from North Korea to China to England, sustained by kindness despite suffering unspeakable horrors. Her gift of empathic touch just might be her, and others’, salvation.

Sentenced in 1993, renowned South Korean writer Sok-Yong Hwang (Familiar Things, 2018) served five of a seven-year sentence for making an unauthorized trip to North Korea to promote artistic exchange between the divided nations. Combining brutal adversity, escapist fantasy, and deep humanity, Hwang – adroitly Anglophone-enabled by expert translator Sora Kim-Russell – indelibly alchemizes the plight of the North Korean refugee, and refugees worldwide, into resonantly timely storytelling.

YA/Mature Readers: Drastically diverse coming-of-age narratives are often eye-opening antidotes in preventing cultural myopia.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist Online, March 8, 2019

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2011 (Korea), 2019 (United States)


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