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The Girl With Seven Names

The Girl With Seven Names

A North Korean Defector's Story

Book - 2015
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An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world's most ruthless and secretive dictatorships - and the story of one woman's terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.

As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told "the best on the planet"?

Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family.

Publisher: London : William Collins, 2015
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780007554836
9780007554843 (pbk)
0007554842 (pbk)
Branch Call Number: 951.93051 LEE
Characteristics: xvi, 304 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color), maps, portraits ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: John, David 1966-- Author


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pacl_teens Apr 21, 2021

""The Girl with Seven Names" is a memoir based on the true account of Lee Hyeon-Seo, a North Korean defector and activist who now lives in South Korea. In this book, Lee tells her story in chronological order: her childhood life in North Korea, her hidden life in China as an illegal immigrant, her new life in Seoul as an asylum seeker, and finally the mission to rescue her brother and mother from North Korea. I was hoping to learn more about North Korea itself in the book, but the book does not actually include too much description of the country's society. Instead, I found my favorite part of the story to be in South Korea, where the author describes her struggle in making a new life in Seoul. I remember learning from a South Korean friend that most North Koreans accept unfairly low paying jobs in South Korea, due to them having received below-standard education in North Korea, and finding it hard to adjust to cultural differences. I thus further admire the author's determination to overcome this common faith, by studying to become an accountant.

One thing I feel necessary to include here, although it is beyond the scope of this book review, is that while there is no doubt that brave souls such as Lee and many other North Korean defectors endured suffering from the violation of human rights in the North Korean regime, it is also true that the some of these testimonies eventually fell apart when some admitted to trading stories for cash and media attention. I do, however, agree with the author's statement that we should look at the big picture, which identifies the issues in North Korea, and cannot discount the credibility of the defectors who tell us real stories." -Chloe, Grade 10

Feb 17, 2021

A good book is one that has relatable characters, an interesting plot line, and leaves you feeling satisfied at the end. A great book is one that leaves you thinking about it long after you've read it. I finished this book probably about a week ago and haven't stopped thinking about it yet. I think it's a combination of sympathy I have for the people in North Korea and also a feeling of gratitude because I have what Hyeonseo Lee called, "the beauty of a free mind." This book was the first one chosen for the brew book club and every single person (so far) has said how much they loved it. It's a life none of us can imagine and in a way almost feels fiction to us. it's hard to believe there are people on the other side of the planet living like this. Every page I turned, I was just like "I could have never been able to do this. There is just no way." Whenever I face a hard situation in life, I know that it will never be as hard as what people escaping North Korea had to go through. Above all else, I think this book taught me the importance of gratitude.

cfitzer1 Aug 12, 2020

An amazing true story - watch you tube interviews / talks also.

Aug 01, 2020

One word, Outstanding!

Jun 19, 2020

I LOVED this book. It's about 11 hours on the audio-book. I listened to the whole thing in 2 days. I HAD to know what happened next. I've read other books on North Korea, but this one is different in that it's not about a North Korean prison (as so many others are). It really describes what it's like to live there and her accidental escape and what that was like for her. I feel like this book should be mandatory reading. It's very well written. She makes so many HARD choices that completely change the course of her life. So many things could have taken her in a different direction, but she maintained control and was in charge of her own destiny. Also makes you think twice about 1st world problems. I really enjoyed this book and have a tremendous amount of respect for the author.

Mar 04, 2020

I read this because my friend Becky recommended it. I enjoyed it very much. The author is a North Korean “defector.” I use the quotes because there was no political aspect to her leaving North Korea. She was an impulsive teenager who wanted to visit relatives in China. She waded across the Yalu River intending to return, but got trapped on the other side due to a crackdown at the border. This is actually typical of so-called defectors there. The brainwashing in North Korea is so complete, so successful, that the citizens there think of South Korea, America, and the west as evil and impoverished – not some place of freedom and wealth, not a place anyone would want to live.

The life she describes in North Korea is so appalling it is mind-boggling, yet growing up in that environment, it seems normal. She had a happy childhood. The book is worth reading just to appreciate how evil the Kim regime and all totalitarian states are. The author was undoubtedly bold and resourceful, yet also foolish in many of the choices she made. Most had little forethought and potentially dire consequences. She was taken advantage of many times and almost ended up as a white slave. She taught herself Mandarin and English out of necessity after becoming stranded abroad. She changed her identity many times to avoid capture and repatriation, hence the book title.

The writing style is a quirky combination of elegant English (no doubt crafted by her co-writer, e.g. ghost writer, David John) and some phrasings that must have been translations of Korean phrases, like “the rain came down in lead rods.” It was at times charming and other times awkward.

Sep 20, 2019

For book club. Well written and gripping. True story. Andy read it too.

Aug 19, 2019

A true life adventure story with deep and troubling insights into North Korea. Every American should read this book.

Aug 15, 2019

Her tale is amazing! The resiliency and strength it took to escape.. for example, to learn written and spoken Chinese well enough to fool the Chinese police! So many times, I told myself, "This is it, she's caught.." but somehow, some way, she outsmarts them all. Very eye-opening to a world I cannot even fathom. Quick and easy read.

Jul 28, 2019

Bookclub: May/19

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