This well-written memoir about teaching in a college in North Korea the year Kim Jong-il died sent shivers up my spine. The author, Suki Kim, an American writer, who spent part of her childhood in South Korea and is fluent in the language, had visited North Korea several times. Each time she felt divorced from the people and prevented by her “minders” (they were actually called that) from getting a true understanding of what contemporary life was like in the country.
Emotionally, Kim felt connected to the country because part of her family lived there. Kim’s mother had often told her stories about how her eldest brother disappeared and was never seen again when he was taken from a truck during the Korean War. The family was divided from other aunts and uncles and cousins who lived across the divide.
John Wayne is one of the most famous and beloved actors of all time. He had an acting style that was uniquely his own. While he is best known for his westerns and war films, my favorite John Wayne film, The Quiet Man, falls in neither category. John Wayne plays boxer Sean Thornton returning to his Irish boyhood home from America after retiring from the ring and from fighting altogether after one of his opponents dies from the blows he suffered in their fight. His desire is to return to the simple life he knew as a boy and the town he grew up in. It doesn’t take long before he finds love with Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’hara), but it is this love that is going to make his life far from simple. Read more about The Quiet Man
If you are looking for an action-packed, extremely violent, two-and-a-half hour movie filled with lots of amazing martial arts acrobatics and weapons used in ways that you would never wish on your worst enemy, you should try this out (in either the provided English dubbed or subtitled Indonesian versions). I wouldn't ever recommend watching a sequel before the original, but you don't really have to see the first one (which is almost half as long, but just as good); This one basically starts over where it left off.Read more about The Raid 2
A great way to explore another culture is through poetry. This book, by one of the best living writers in Arabic, Saadi Youssef, does just that. It also provides beautiful poetry.
Youssef writes about all the traditional topics: love, nature, the changing seasons, and daily activities but he also describes his pain and anger at seeing the damage to his home country. In "A Difficult Variation" he describes his wishes for his native country, "Peace be upon Iraq's hills, its two rivers, the bank and the bend, / upon the palm trees / and the English hamlet gently dragging its clouds."
He writes deeply poignant poems about Iraq. In one he asks, “Is it your fault that once you were born in that country? / Three quarters of a century / and you still pay from your ebbing blood / its tax.” Read more about Nostalgia, My Enemy
De Grenade brings to vivid life a remote cattle range in the far reaches of Australia, just a boat journey away on the Coral Sea from the Indonesian island of Papua New Guinea. Stilwater, this remote ranch bounded by seas on two sides and by the curvy Solomon and Powder Rivers, was until a year before the author’s arrival mostly uncared for, its cows and bulls, unbranded and roaming free. Not only free but feral on this ranch of a thousand square miles.
De Grenade, adventurous and stubborn, and an excellent horsewoman left school at age twelve to cattle ranch in Arizona. There she buffed up her horse and animal skills. In her young twenties she asked family members for contacts in Australia, and through them found a distant connection who offered her free room and boarding in exchange for work. At the end of her gig, they gave her an airline ticket and as she wandered around “this island between two oceans” as she calls Australia, she found a notice to work on Stilwater. Read more about Stilwater: Finding Wild Mercy in the Outback
Wow! Chloe Honum’s first book of poetry is a winner. She writes beautiful nature poems, ones about living with a mother with psychiatric problems, and ones describing her childhood training to be a ballerina. Check out these lines from “Danse des Petit Cygnes”: “at the studio where I / was one of four cygnets. / Rehearsals ran late. / Night swayed on its green stem…”
In “Alone with Mother” she gives an emotionally laden image of a child trying to comprehend her mother’s state, “In the car, we sat a long time, / the keys a silver / starfish in her lap, silence // a kind of love between us.”
In “Crossing the Three-Rope Bridge” she not only captures the moment but creates tension in the reader who pictures the scene, a girl at camp crossing a thin bridge over a rushing creek, “I walked, heel toe, heel toe—a fish, the gleam / on a rock below, its wound a swirl of red…And when my foot slipped, the whole / sky gasped. You raised your hands as if to heaven.” Read more about The Tulip-Flame