A Book Set In Another Country

I'm on day five of a six day stretch off from work, so in between games of Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Wii Bowling, and making meals, I have been reading my heart out.  It has been a much-needed trip home from all my travels through presentations, writing papers, and reading through nursing journals.  My classes will resume in February, so my retreat will be over soon - I am taking advantage of every little extra moment I have to consume my bookshelves.

Yesterday, I journeyed through Yeonmi Park's In Order to Live.  Monday nights are our Story Time evenings at the library, so while the kids played in the Children's area, I browsed the What's New section.  This woman's beautiful face kept drawing my attention, and while I walked past the book several times, I finally picked it up to read the blurb on the inside of the dust jacket. I knew I must read this book.  (Side note about dust jackets: They are a conundrum.  I love them when I am purchasing a book because I love the crisp sound they make when you crack open a new book and flip to the back to read about the author.  But once the book is home, and I start to read, I loathe them.  They slide all over the place and hang off the back of the book, or your children take them off and you find them stuffed in the toy basket or the dryer.  So I started to throw them away and streamline the look of my shelves, but I felt guilty, like the poor person who writes the blurbs and the author's bio was doing all this work just to be discarded like my daily banana peel.  Then I was curious about what the history of the dust jacket was, and I learned that in the early 19th century, they were just that - protection from dust and dirt during delivery - and once in the reader's hands, the paper covering was thrown away.  So I stopped feeling bad about it all and continued to pitch them.) 

I will be ordering this book, because if Ms. Park receives even pennies in royalties because of me, I want to support her.  When I was strutting through high school with my sad little teen dramas and begging my parents for that $60 sweater from Abercrombie, she was a little girl starving.  While I graduated and moved to Tennessee and then moved back home after wasting an obscene amount of my parents' money, her mother was being raped and beaten and they were both sold into human trafficking.  I am privileged, I am blessed and I am grateful for the life I was born in to.  However, as a teenager and young adult, I was oblivious to the world around me.  I was materialistic and self-centered.  But I want to believe, had I heard stories like this then, had I read the pages of her life while I was finding myself, I really have to believe that I would have stopped for a minute and smacked myself on the back of the head.  I don't take what I have for granted these days, because I know what it's like to lose people you love, and I know the work and sacrifice it takes to obtain a sense of security.  But I don't know it like she does.  I never will.  I don't know what loss is, what strength is, what determination is, what pain is, what joy is.  And while I know that it wasn't my choice to be born in America where I have always been free, while she was born in North Korea where no one is free, I know that I can make the choice every day to be thankful for my blessings and to be cognizant of others' struggles by choosing not to be extravagant, materialistic, and wasteful.  What does a person really need in life? 

So yes, I started and finished this one in a day, and by the end, my five-year old was asking, "Mommy, when are you going to stop reading that book?!".  But when she is fourteen and whining because she doesn't have anything to wear and her hair is too curly, I am going to wrap up this book in some beautiful paper, tie it up with a sweet pink bow, and tell her to read it for a healthy dose of perspective.