Category Archives: non fiction

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



Leave a comment

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

Review of Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West by Kevin Swanson

I don’t know how I stumbled across this book, but it looked interesting so I checked it out of the library. It really made me think.

When our oldest was a teen, we sent him off on a bus to a Worldview Academy week in Miami, Ohio. I didn’t know too much about the camp, but thought it would help him in getting through the rough adolescent years. After reading this book, I have come to appreciate more what they try to do there and at other ministries for teens to help them shape their worldview, before it is destroyed by what they learn in the halls of academia. A Christiann worldview was something I did not receive as a teenager myself, and after reading this book, I realized I learned the hard way.

For example, one day I sat crying in despair in the Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh. My faith was belittled and mocked by a liberal anthropology professor who  taught us we all came from apes. Thankfully it did not  destroy my faith. Another instance was when confronted with the abortion issue in nursing school. I never really considered it murder until I was sent to observe one firsthand in my s0phomore year.

I grew up on a steady stream of progressive propaganda and didn’t even realize it. It was reflected by the movies I watched, the music I listened to and affected my whole outlook on life. Without faith, I would have concluded that life was meaningless and absurd, as expounded by Nietzsche in his  writings.

In this book, author Kevin Swanson sets about educating parents and high school children how our culture has come to be where it is today, by the slow and steady erosion of Judaeo-Christian values which started in earnest in the 1850s. Even before then, the damage started by  thinkers like Thomas Aquinas, who separated the “sacred” from the “secular.” Humanists such as Rene Descartes, John Locke, and Jean Jacques Rousseau laid the foundation for the big changes which exploded in the twentieth century.

Also discussed are Marx, Dewey, Darwin, Sartre, Mark Twain, Steinbeck and Hemingway, among others. Their literature formed the basis of my high school English reading. Sadly, most  came from Christian backgrounds but somehow lost their way. Not only they were lost, but they helped many others to follow their example. On page 126, Swanson states that Charles Darwin, upon entering Cambridge University, wrote that he “did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word of the Bible.”  By the end of his life and completing his writings, he declared that the Bible is “no more to be trusted than… the beliefs of a barbarian.” What happened?

Mr. Swanson contends that the trail of destruction the apostates left us has destroyed Western society. He calls for a new generation to rise up and reclaim our heritage. I am not sure that is still possible at this point. For the end times were predicted to be (as they are now)  in the Bible:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power… II Timothy 3:1-5

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how our society’s values have undergone such enormous change in the last couple of generations. For parents, read it to be forewarned against what your children are taught in the public schools. And if homeschooling, don’t make the mistake of thinking your children will be able to discern the difference of humanistic writings from what they are taught in church. Get yourself prepared by reading this book.

Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West was published in 2013 by Generations with Vision. Citations and a selected bibliography are included. The author is a homeschooling father who is also a pastor and the host of a daily radio show called Generations.








Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, homeschooling, honoring your parents, learn from lessons of history, non fiction, parenting, spiritual warfare, Uncategorized

A Review of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

I like reading about World War II, especially in the form of non-fiction. Erik Larson’s account of the American ambassador to Germany in the 1930’s was both enlightening and sad. William E. Dodd was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to go to Berlin in 1933. It seemed he was doomed from the start.

Dodd was not well liked by the State Department of the United States. He was a professor at the University of Chicago and researched early Southern history, but also owned his family’s farm in Round Hill, Virginia. It really was the place where he felt most at home. The fact was, being appointed ambassador to Germany was not a coveted position in 1933. Dodd brought his family: wife Martha (Mattie) and his two children with him. His daughter, Martha and son William Jr. were both in their twenties. Dodd lived a frugal lifestyle and brought his beat up Chevrolet along with him. He soon would be scorned by the Germans and the American government that sent him.

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Dodd sensed something terrible was brewing in Germany, but no one in America seemed to take his warnings seriously. Furthermore, his daughter, Martha became known for her affairs with both Germans and a Russian spy. The family lived in what Dodd requested: “modest quarters in a modest hotel” near the “Tiergarten” of Berlin. Larson described the Tiergarten as Berlin’s equivalent of Central Park. The name literally meant the “garden of the beasts.” It once had served as a hunting preserve for royalty. Ironically, other “beasts” prowled, ruthlessly tyrannizing Germany during the time of Dodd’s stay.

Dodd became increasingly convinced that the Nazi regime was the prelude to something terrible stirring in Europe, but his cries seemed mostly to fall on deaf ears. He remained a farmer at heart, and would sometimes be able to go home to his farm for some times of rest and relaxation. Dodd and his family were in Germany on the Night of the Long Knives, a time of purging within the Party itself. It happened in the summer of 1934.Eighty five people died and more than a thousand political opponents were arrested.

A few days later, his daughter left to tour the Soviet Union while Dodd stood amazed that the purge had not caused anger among the citizens of Germany. About a week later, he wrote that he had a sense of horror looking at Hitler, and began to wonder if he should resign. Things did not improve as time went on, and finally by the end of 1937, Dodd was recalled from his position.

Larson paints a portrait of tragedy for William Dodd, but also a man who stood by his principles when it was not politically expedient to do so. He ended up paying a high cost. Larson writes anecdotes to accompany his notes section and actually made them interesting to read! I will probably try to read some of his other works: bestselling The Devil in the White City, and Isaac’s Storm seem especially appealing.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning a mostly unknown part of America’s role before World War II actually broke out in Europe, and anyone who would like to observe a profile of courage in most dangerous times.

Incidentally, the book shows a picture 100_1230of the “Tiergarten” which was seen from the Dodd’s hotel where they lived in Berlin: bombed out by the Russians, a desolation after the war.

Leave a comment

Filed under learn from lessons of history, non fiction, World War II history