BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Song of Arirang by Kim San and Nym Wales, edited by George O. Totten and Dongyoun Hwang [in Booklist]

He’s had almost two dozen names, yet his story was forgotten for 40 years. More recently, despite their violent 20th-century histories, four countries – China, Japan, and his native Korea, now cleaved into North and South – all claim him as a local hero. Perhaps best known as Kim San, he was born in 1905 during the brutal Japanese occupation of his homeland. From what is now North Korea, he trekked into China, ostensibly to further his education, and for almost two decades crisscrossed between China, Korea, and Japan – wherever he was needed to fight for independence.

In 1937, he spent three months with Helen Foster Snow, a China-based American journalist who pseudonymously published 40-plus books as Nym Wales, recounting his remarkable life story – as teenage nationalist, young revolutionary, and underground independence fighter. When Song of Arirang debuted in 1941 in New York, Snow remained unaware of Kim’s fate (he was executed in 1938 by the Chinese government).

Resurrected as part of Kaya Press’ inaugural Magpie Series – which showcases Korean titles then and now – this latest edition is contextually enhanced with Kim’s essays-in-first-time-translation, Snow’s preludes and postludes, and additional academic and historical commentary.

Review: “Nonfiction,” Booklist Online, May 10, 2019

Readers: Adult

Published: 1941 (original); 2019 (Kaya Press’ Magpie Series edition)


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