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Stars Between the Sun and Moon: One Woman’s Life in North Korea and Escape to Freedom by Lucia Jang with Susan McClelland [in Library Journal]

Stars Between the Sun and Moon by Lucia Jang on BookDragon via Library JournalWithin mere months, four memoirs – including Stars – by North Korean women hit U.S. shelves: Hyeonseo Lee’s The Girl with Seven Names and Eunsun Kim’s A Thousand Miles to Freedom debuted in July; Yeonmi Park’s In Order to Live hit in September; and Stars arrived in October. As told to 2008 Amnesty International Media Awarded journalist Susan McClelland, Lucia Jang shares the first three-decades-plus of her life with unflinching candor and unbreakable love.

Born in rural North Korea, Jang was the oldest of four children. Her family suffered because they had relatives who escaped to South Korea. Hunger was never far off, but the 1990s famine that claimed millions of lives eroded the entire country. Jang’s first son – conceived when she was raped by a man she was then compelled to marry – was sold by her own mother, initially in hopes of saving the child’s life.

Driven by starvation, Jang escaped to China multiple times. The pattern of prison and flight was finally broken when her second child was threatened with government-sanctioned murder, and Jang miraculously survived her final journey out.

Verdict: Reader Janet Song has dozens of titles featuring suffering women of Asian descent. Her voice and cadence are so distinctive – breathy, anxious – that her aural narratives start to run together, as if she is voicing one neverending tale of woe. Stars is her third recent North Korea-set recording, following Euna Lee’s The World Is Bigger Now and Suki Kim’s Without You, There Is No Us. As if falling into the stereotype that all Asians look alike, ergo they must all sound alike, Song is indiscriminately cast to voice characters of Chinese, Japanese, Korean backgrounds. Her Korean here is serviceable, her Japanese not so much (i.e. Haruki Murakami’s After Dark); as a non-speaker, I’m unable to judge her Chinese (i.e. multiple Lisa See titles, Cecily Wong’s Diamond Head). With readily available dialect/accent coaching, producers must reconsider casting solely by ethnic background. Jang’s important, inspiring story would have been better served by a narrator with more nuance, range, maturity. Despite the issues with its narration, Stars should not be overlooked by readers searching for an indelible story of fearless resilience and indomitable courage.

Review: Edited from “Audible,” Library Journal, November 15, 2015

Readers: Adult

Published: 2015

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