Monday, June 18, 2012
Author: Brandon W. Jones
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Workman Publishing)
Pub. Date: May 1, 2012
All Woman and Springtime is an important book because it sheds light on an issue that isn't talked about all that much. International human trafficking is one of those egregious crimes that is happening all around us, but we tend to be easily sheltered from it because of its underground nature.
Gyong-Ho (Gi) and Il-Sun are two young girls growing up in an orphanage in North Korea. All they know is a life of praising the Dear Leader, staying in the orphanage, and working at a garment factory. Gi and Il-Sun end up becoming friends, and Gi admires and looks up to Il-Sun (whom she thinks of as "all woman and springtime"). We are shown through some flashbacks that prior to living at the orphanage, Gi was worked and tortured in a North Korean gulag which has led to her lack of emotional affect and initial inability to connect with anyone. She also has a genius ability with numbers that might be her way of managing her anxiety and escaping into her mind. Il-Sun on the other hand lived a nice life prior to ending up in the orphanage and also has her beauty to rely on. It's this beauty and slightly rebellious nature that leads her and Gi into trouble. Their naivete that is a result of the environment they grew up in leads to their being easily manipulated. The girls are sold into sexual slavery first in South Korea and then in the United States. In some graphic scenes, we're exposed to the truth of what girls in this situation are forced to do as well as the factors that lead to their imprisonment and inability to escape.
This book fit a lot into its pages. First you have to really get to know and like the characters before the meat of the plot happens. But even the first part was an interesting look into life in North Korea for who don't know much about it. (I, on the other hand, feel like I've read a lot on this topic but still found it interesting). It was heartbreaking to read about what these girls went through. And in this case, the girls have been so isolated in their home country that they have to juxtapose gaining an understanding of the rest of the world with the seedy environments they're in. And seeing the ways the pimps and madams were able to manipulate them into believing that they had no choice to stay by perpetuating the lies the North Koreans gave them adds to the heartbreak.
It was easy to get invested with these characters, especially Gi. I almost feel like the book could have been even longer, as it had spanned a large amount of time and events and even at close to 400 pages, it seemed we had to skim over some parts. But other than that, All Woman and Springtime was an opportune and eye opening novel.