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Still Life with Rice, Helie Lee

A memoir and fictionalized immigrant narrative. The author goes to Korea in search of her identity, and discovers her grandmother’s compelling story of growing up in a traditional Korean household, expatriating to China to escape the Japanese occupation, and returning only to survive the dramatic hardships of the Korean War. Her harrowing journey from the North to Pusan with an infant on her back and three little ones in tow, separated from her husband and most precious eldest son, along with hundreds of thousands of other refugees, fleeing the communists and being shot and bombed by American pilots, is an exceptional account of the war’s harsh toll on civilians. Although Lee’s language is sometimes stiff and her focus narrow, the narrative exposes a rich history of a strong woman’s rise from the lowly realm of womanhood, her fall through losses of war and death in her family, and rise again through spiritual renewal and the practice of ch’iryo, a heavy-handed massage/healing art Chinese technique. Among the first modern publications of Korean American writing.

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