September 2nd, 2019


escape books

This year the memorable books I read trend around refugees. Not really on purpose - I just like reading books about people in different parts of the world, stories not like mine, best sellers, and I do not like reading about petty first world problems, so where does that take me? tragic journeys.

The Girl With Seven Names is my favorite this year and I'd highly recommend it. It's non-fiction. The author is a well-known TED conference speaker who grew up in North Korea and escaped through China to South Korea. North Korea is a horribly oppressed place and reading the book you get a sense of how ingrained their system is and how impossible it would be to change it. China won't help anyone escape and none of the countries around South Korea are terribly helpful either. Her tale of fake identities and papers and bribes required to make it out is insane. She looks longingly at tourists with the birthright to go where they please.

I read "The Map of Salt and Stars" about girls escaping Syria through all of North Africa before sheer luck got them to relatives in Spain. "Fruit of the Drunken Tree" is about families on either end of the wealth spectrum in Colombia in the early 90s.

Everyone wants the same things: Food, water, safety, at some point truth... because your life can be saved by what you know, and when you get mixed information you can't make the right decisions about how to get to safety. In the books I read everyone gets to their destinations, but with scars and losses to show for it. Their enemies are rapists, bureaucracy, and greed. Every story makes me look around and realize how lucky I am and how quickly it can all go away, and then what does anyone have? Their luck and wits and maybe some connections in other parts of the world.