Book Review: Pachinko

Title: Pachinko

Author: Min Jin Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literature

Pages: 453

Level of difficulty: 4/5 Dictionaries

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Brief Introduction:

Sunja, the daughter in a loving family falls for a stranger often seen near the market in her hometown in Korea as a teenager. Their interaction leads to her pregnancy but unfortunately, she soon realises that she cannot marry him. She instead accepts a marriage proposal from a gentle, sickly minister and moves with him to Japan. This decision further unfolds in a breathtaking way through the generations.

Trigger warnings : Assault, Addiction and Suicide

Favourite Quote:

“Sunja had heard this sentiment from other women, that they must suffer—suffer as a girl, suffer as a wife, suffer as a mother—die suffering. Gosaeng—the word made her sick.”

Pg. 373

Review:

Pachinko follows the lives of several individuals in a family tree from before the Japanese occupation of Korea to way after the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We are told the story from a bird’s eye view, where we see each character and learn about them from a third person’s perspective. However, the story was not difficult to follow at all. It was not only well written but highly moving too. I actually cried less than 50 pages into the novel.

On a whole, the story is about life, more specifically the lives of Korean immigrants in Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea and long after the Cold War, and thus encompasses many themes. The author did a good job of highlighting how racism and discrimination limit people’s options and changes their lives drastically. Something that is sadly still prominent in today’s time. She was also brutally honest yet compassionate while portraying the lives of women throughout the history of which the story plays out.

However, something I was disappointed about was the lack of explanation for certain characters death. Then again, it might have been intentional to represent life and how we rarely get answers to a lot of painful experiences.

Despite the story’s slow pace, it was a page-turner!

Mist

I’m on the bus now wondering to myself who I could call if I have an emotional breakdown this very moment

One name comes to mind, but I don’t know what to say

I don’t know if she shall deal with my fragile state with the same amount of care i would hers or anybody else’s

I know that she wouldn’t know what words to say, when to say them and thus I shall have to do the bandaging myself, only to have her watching at the corner

I hate being vulnerable, I know that very well,
and maybe it is because I have learnt that when you put expectations on people, they always disappoint,
so I have learnt to compress my emotions like recycled can drinks before they become new soft drinks

And I know very well, that I have been lucky that there hasn’t been an eruption right deep in my being, however my luck is running out

I begin to see it crystal clear, I have allowed people to treat me as their emotional garbage

Always there to hear their problems, to sit with them to find solutions, yet always tossed to the side when life is going great for them

And my ice cube justification better me than people who shall hurt them is slowly but surely turning into mist

Every point in my life, I relearn the lesson, you only have yourself at the end of the day

7:35 am

Today I woke up with my heart heavy,
with my chest tight,
and my eyes dry

Today I woke up and wanted to lie back down,
where I disappeared for hours at end,
and not deal with the world

Today I woke up and found out once again that I stick out like a sore thumb in this world;
not quite at each end of the spectrum of fun,
and thus right smack in the middle of lame

Today I woke up and hated how I spent other days when I could breathe in fresh air;
kept myself hidden in a box,
instead of floating on the clouds

Today I woke up and thought about self-worth and self-love,
and wondered if they were the same,
if they were reminders that you have no guide but yourself to help you see when the world turns dark

Bear

Last week, my family and I went to an ocean park. We didn’t know what to expect because we went with a tour group and it was frequently referred to as a water park. In hindsight, if we knew what was in store, we wouldn’t have gone.

Over time, I have come to have a strong opposition against circuses (although I have never been to one) because I believe it is cruel to force animals to act against nature. This opposition is rapidly extending to zoos and ‘ocean parks’. The animals are in small enclosures, much smaller than that of where they would be in the wild. This results in the animals being very stressed and thus affecting their health. In addition, they mostly look very sad. 

Hence, this poem in hopes of starting a conversation on this issue. I would love to hear your stand.  

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              A bear in the Ocean Park                           credit: Ayodele-Oja    

I am a grizzly bear.

A dark-brown usually 180kg salmon eating beast.

Yet, here I am

In this small place where the hundreds of kilometres

I walk is now back and forth in a small enclosure.

I myself aren’t surprised that my skin is slowly drooping.

It’s the same way I am losing my gusto.

The 3 inches long claws I have are being put to waste

As I am fed sweet potatoes by tourists whose targets aren’t accurate enough to reach me.

In addition, the 3 metres I can stand to is now simply a tourist attraction.

I am not sure where I came from,

But I am sure I cannot go back to the wild.

Still, this pain, this suffering, for the entertainment of others, is not what I deserve.

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Bear enclosure in the Ocean Park                                    credit: Ayodele-Oja 

So, do you agree or disagree with my opposition against ocean parks? Why and why not? Do leave comments!

3.50AM

At 3.50 am in the morning,

I am awaken by a loud wail.

The foreign sounds of someone who doesn’t often shed.

Although clear that it is sincere, I am bewildered that it sounds fake.

What is wrong with emotion?

Why put up a tough front and wrap it with pride when truly,

No one wants you to,

Especially when no one wants you to?

Why succumb yourself to such torture when it’s so much pain?

My, the trouble and the difficulty.

I am not ignorant.

I see both sides and thus wake,

I wake at 3.50am in the morning.

The Chibok Girls

April 14th, was the third anniversary of the kidnapping of 276 girls, from the Government Girls Secondary School, school dormitories, in Chibok, Nigeria.

This poem is a cry for the safe return of the rest of the 195 girls that have yet to return.

It’s been three years now. Three years since the 276 girls were taken by force, in the dark of the night from the place that was the foundation of their aspirations. It’s been three years since 195 girls have last seen their families.

It is hard to comprehend. Always has been. It is difficult comprehending how people said to be human beings could celebrate the kidnapping of girls on the path of a better future. It is difficult comprehending why the government has yet to rescue the 195 of them. However, it’s a luxury for those whose problem is in comprehending how such an evil could happen and not in how it had happened to them.

There are things many of us will fail to fully understand. The emotion the parents feel when the next girl, who was managed to make it back home, isn’t their daughter. The emotion a mother feels when her daughter comes back with a baby although she is almost half the age, her Mother was when she had her first child. The agony some of the girls felt losing their babies while escaping.

However, despite the mess, a few thing are clear. Justice shall prevail, we are not afraid, and we shall #BringBackOurGirls.