You Seriously Need to Read This Book

17 Jul

Working in the Marketing/Communications department, I get to hear about all the cool things our alumni are doing. A few months ago, I heard that one, Blaine Harden, had published a book, Escape From Camp 14. Book-publishing is not terribly uncommon. Then I heard it had been a bestseller.

So I ordered the book from the library, and I just finished it this morning.

Oh my goodness. Read it. Read it read it read it.

I never knew much of anything about North Korea, and I wouldn’t have picked this book off the shelf normally. It’s about a man who was born in a forced-labor prison camp and should have died there, except he managed to escape. He’s the only person (as far as anyone knows, I guess) to have been born in one of these camps and later escape. Hundreds of thousands of people live out their lives there.

These camps are horribly similar to the Nazi concentration camps, except that they don’t kill people on purpose. That’s used as a punishment (for something as simple as scavenging a few extra kernels of corn) and as a side-effect of the back-breaking work the prisoners are forced to do while subsisting off little but cabbage.

If you find Holocaust-memoir books fascinating, this will grab you in the same way. Except it’s horrifying because as you read the dates (the book takes place in the 1990s and 2000s) you can think of what you were doing on that exact same day. One of the dates mentioned in the book was the day before I turned 14 – I can remember that, and thinking that this man was enduring something so horrible while I was worrying about whether or not my parents would buy me a new camera was yet another reminder that this is real.

I’ve emailed the author to ask if he would be willing to speak on campus next year, because this is something people need to hear.

Go read it.


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