Category Archives: memoir

Review of Under the Same Sky by Joseph Kim

 

I read this sad story after reading its review in World Magazine. A young man keeps on walking one day, a celebration day in North Korea, a day when the guards are not paying close attention. He walks so far that to go any further will lead him into China. His remaining family has been torn apart by the famine in North Korea, so he has no motivation to stay. But when he gets to China, the people who live in “rich homes” slam the door in his face. He only finds help after he listens to the advice to go to a building that has a cross on the top.

Joseph Kim is a strong survivor of an almost unbelievable tale. Little things that we take for granted here: namely food and freedom, are in high demand in the repressive regime that he defected from. Don’t read this book if you don’t want to know what the poor people of this world face daily while we live as kings and queens here in America, by comparison.

The subtitle is: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America and on the front cover is a bowl with only few grains of rice outside it. Most of the book involves Joseph’s upbringing in North Korea. He started off with a secure family and ended up a filthy migrant (called Kkotjebi) who stole in order to survive. We all know that it is wrong to steal, but maybe we would do the same thing if we were in his shoes? It is something I don’t really like to think about. The saddest part of the story for me is when he talks about his sister, Bong Sook. I hope he finds her and that she can come to America one day.

When Kim left North Korea, he was in culture shock. By the time he came to America, even more was he astonished at the comparison between our two countries. He suffered a time of depression after leaving everything he knew for a strange land where he lives alone, but has since recovered. Joseph Kim is a bright and hard working young man and a college student in New York City.

This book is not a happy read, but it gives a dose of reality into what it was like to grow up during the time of famine in North Korea. I hope  God uses Joseph Kim’s story to enlighten others as to the plight of those who live in the “Hermit Kingdom,” where lack is suffered daily and to be a Christian is to be a criminal worthy of death.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, copyright 2015

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Filed under awareness of the poor, Bible, family relationships, honoring your parents, memoir, non fiction

A Review of Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller

I found out about this wonderful book through a Kindle offer but ended up checking it out of my local library. I like to read memoirs and this one did not disappoint.

I have great respect for the author, Kimberly Rae Miller, as she told the poignant tale of growing up with two parents who had a compulsive hoarding problem. It was not just a case of a cluttered house, but filth and shame as she tried to keep others from knowing her secret. The thing about it is that her love for her parents shines the whole way through the book. Miller adhered to a Biblical principle, “honor thy father and mother,” and her outcome was blessed because she did so.

Kim grew up in the New York City area as an only child. Her mother was Jewish and her Dad was Catholic. Trauma in his own childhood with alcoholic parents led her Dad into an insatiable need to hang onto all kinds of papers. He loved to gather information as well and constantly listened to NPR. Though the papers were mostly not going to be used or needed, nevertheless he felt a compunction to hang onto them, along with all kinds of other junk. Her mother did not have a happy childhood either, and ended up cut off by her mother, who always favored her sister. In spite of her anger over her husband’s hoarding, Kim’s Mom comforted her pain by ordering lots and lots of things online. It grew to the point that her mother only had just a tiny space for where she slept on her mattress each night.

Kim told of how they got burned out of one house and ended up moving from one apartment to another as she grew up, running from chaos and filth. She made some great friends in school in spite of it. These friends helped and did not abandon her when her “secret” got out. In spite of the mess and confusion, Kim was a go-getter and pushed herself to make it to prestigious Emerson College in New England. After her freshman year, she lost her financial aid package through a technicality and became desperate. During Kim’s own lowest point, her Mom sacrificed in helping her find a way to continue there.

Once she left her parents’ home, Kim was overcome by the horror of what she had gone through as a child. But she never abandoned her parents. Instead, she came time and time again to help them clean out, and try to make a fresh start. Each time she did it drained her, but she pushed through it anyway. Her mother suffered severe health problems and nearly died, but Kim let her mother know that she must keep on fighting to get well because she needed her. Her mother needed a clean place to come home to recuperate. Kim realized her parents needed help, and in compassion she shelved her pride and secret to even more people in asking help from them to clean her parents home.

The hoarding lifestyle she was surrounded by gave Miller an almost obsessive need to keep her own home neat and tidy. Part of her own therapy was writing down her story, and it was one which her parents fully supported. When her Dad read the manuscript, he tearfully apologized for all she suffered growing up in utter chaos. The best part of this memoir is that she still loves and supports her parents. At the end, they made tremendous strides in cleaning up their act. Kim found happiness also, but I won’t say more on that.

It was like a breath of fresh air to find someone who was not willing to jump on the wagon to blame someone else for their problems, to find someone who actually was grateful for their parents even if her parents were not perfect people. I commend the author for her bravery in telling this story in a way that could make the reader feel good about honoring and respecting their parents. I really enjoyed this book and maybe now you will also. You can find out more about Kimberly Rae Miller at her blog: http://thekimchallenge.com/

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Filed under character-building books, family relationships, honoring your parents, memoir, parenting, Uncategorized

Review of Running Away: A Memoir by Robert Andrew Powell

It is amazing the impact of a father’s love, or lack thereof, can bear on a person’s life. I just completed reading a poignant chronicle about one year of an unsettled man’s life in middle class America. Robert Powell attempts to find himself living in the shadow of his father’s giant footsteps. In sharing his painful journey, we can appreciate his brutal honesty regarding his own faults and failures, and by the end of the year, see how far he has come in his emotional journey.

Powell’s memoir details the year 2007-2008, when he sold all his possessions and took off from Miami to the city of Boulder, Colorado to begin training to run in a marathon. All his life, he had been dogged by his own underachievement in the light of his father’s great success, both as a runner and as a businessman. Looming large in his mind always is his father’s successful attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon in one try and the big newspaper story that followed.

Powell did a great job pulling at emotional heartstrings, drawing me into the story as I read about his multitude of mis-steps, and how this seemed to be his last chance at finding self-esteem. For anyone who may have struggled in a shaky relationship with their father, chances are good that you would be able to relate to him in some way.Kudos to him for sticking with his running program when he plain out admits that he got no pleasure from running. He meets new friends in Boulder, and acquires a trainer, whom he really thought cared about him.

The climax of the story occurs when Robert and his running partner, Carl, travel to Florida for running their own marathon. I will not give away what happens there but to me, was the highlight of the book and made the reading worthwhile. Also woven into the story is how the author met the famous Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter, and interviewed him while in Boulder.

I would not mind reading a follow up book just to find out what happened to him since.There is some foul language and talk about marital infidelity, which the author regretted in the long run.

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Filed under family relationships, memoir, running