It’s been a while since I read a book, YA or adult, that captured me so thoroughly that I didn’t want to stop reading, and that I couldn’t stop thinking about until I finished reading it. IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN was such a book. It follows Korean adoptee Mia Andrews and her brother Simon on a tour gone terribly wrong that devolves into a frightening and thrilling journey in one of the most closed countries on earth, North Korea. The author, who grew up in South Korea, has done thorough homework—the story feels authentic and the details ring with the truth of cultural accuracy and historical veracity. The book has a unique structure that includes a smart introduction to North Korea via a “travel guide,” and short interludes of voices of certain North Korean characters whom the youth encounter, if only briefly, on their harrowing journey. This combination brings a wider perspective on Mia and Simon’s dilemma, and gives valuable glimpses of a varied and complex North Korean society and daily life. While the action is a page-turner, Mia’s inner journey of identity and courage, as well as Simon’s, and the shift in their brother-and-sister relationship is equally authentic and compelling. Mirroring today’s political dilemma with issues of trust with North Korea, Mia and Simon are constantly confronted with questions about who to trust, and their instincts and choices are a lesson for us all. A terrific book about how a girl’s daunting journey enriches her inner journey, and a story and setting that expands one’s understanding of this country that is often in the news, and about which little is known.
Magic Amber, by James M. Reasoner
In this Korean folk legend (for youth ages 7-10), a generous and kind elderly farming couple triumph over their cruel and greedy landlord with an enchanted stone that makes rice.
The Chinese Mirror, by Mirra Ginsburg
A father in ancient Korea travels to China and brings home something he’s never seen before—a mirror. Children’s picture book.
My Freedom Trip: A Child’s Escape from North Korea by Frances and Ginger Park
After the Korean War, a child is sent to South Korea by her mother who hopes to provide her a better life than in the North.
Chi-Hoon: A Korean Girl by Patricia I. McMahon
Photographic essay and narrative of a girl’s daily life in Seoul.
Aekyung’s Dream by Min Paek
A small story of a girl who wakes up in America wondering what language the birds are singing in.
The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee
What happens to life after you survive the atrocities and randomness of war? Chang-rae Lee examines the deep intricacies of this question and its ramifications in THE SURRENDERED, portraying three survivors (Korean War, China-Japan War) whose lives mesh at an orphanage somewhere in South Korea after liberation.
Archer’s Quest, by Linda Sue Park
Kevin, a middle schooler or a little younger, is a Korean American boy bored with just about everything, and has an ambivalent relationship with his math-genius father. By magic, the legendary Korean archer, Koh Chu-mong, from ancient Korean history (Koguryo period) appears in his room. (Young Adult)
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
A New York City saga peopled with insecure, wounded, and angry resentful characters.
A Small Revolution, by Jimin Han
In her startling debut novel, Jimin Han captures several genres at once—a terrifying thriller, a coming-of-age story of first love, a historical novel of 1980s Korea and Korean Americans, and a work of literature with an interesting structure and use of point-of-view that only ramps up the tension.