What I’m Reading: The Island of Sea Women

From the book jacket:

Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.

Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

My review:

The Island of Sea Women is such a captivating and powerful story not only two friends, but women and their relationships as well. especially since it is based around true historical events. The detail that Lisa See goes into is, as always, remarkable and she really captures the horrific events is such a beautiful way.

What I especially liked about this book is the relationship between Young-sook and Mi-ja; to me, their relationship is similar to those that many women have: we’re inseparable but as we get older, our faith in one another is tested in a make-or-break fashion.

In my opinion, Young-sook and Mi-ja’s friendship was flawed. While it seems strong on the outside, Young-sook’s haenyeo upbringing blinded her to Mi-ja’s “Western” struggles as Mi-ja didn’t have the courage to speak up for herself. Still, their story grabbed me and I couldn’t help but want them to resolve their differences.

The Island of Sea Women opened my eyes to a part of Asian history that I had absolutely no knowledge of, and as I mentioned before, Lisa See tells its tale so wonderfully. I heart hurts for those who were impacted by the 4.3 Incident and I’m really interested in learning more about this island’s history overall.

Despite all of the tragedy within the storyline, it still absorbed me completely. I’d definitely recommend it as it introduces such a different lifestyle for women.

My rating: ★★★★½/5

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Race Recap: Boogie the Bridge 2019

New location, new route, same great atmosphere!

Thanks to roadwork and construction, this year’s Boogie the Bridge took participants on a new adventure but with the same energy and excitement as past runs. I was looking forward to seeing the changes that had been made and what the new location would bring to the table.

It definitely didn’t disappoint – even the parking situation wasn’t as bad as we had expected it to be. Kyle, the girls, and myself all found a place to park in the morning with plenty of time to line up for the porta-loos and see Kyle off for his half-marathon start!

After we saw Kyle off, both Isla and Norah lined up with his mom and step-dad to run in the Mini Boogie! This was Norah’s first Mini Boogie ever, and she was super excited to be running it with Grandpa. The kids are always so much fun to watch, and I’m glad mine got to experience it with their grandparents! They both did awesome and were super excited to show off their race bling after the race!

Then it was time for the 10K runners to line up for their wave. I really wanted to use the loo one more time before I had to line up, but the line up was so long that I didn’t want to risk missing the start. As it turned out, we had to wait around for quite a while and I probably would’ve had enough time to go, but oh well.

Eventually we got going and I felt pretty good during for the first half of the run. I ended up stopping at the 3.5K pit stop/water station to use the bathroom, which slowed me down a little, but better that than having that nagging feeling in my head.

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Split stats!

By the 8km mark I was really starting to feel it and had to take a short walking break while going over the overpass. It had such a funny angle to it that it was a challenge, so I figured it was a good spot to quickly catch my breath before tackling the last 2kms.

Crossing the finish line was the best feeling ever – especially having Isla and Norah there cheering for me! Pee break included, I managed to finish with an official time of 58:01. I felt I could’ve done a bit better, but I’m content with my time overall!

Isla and Norah were quick to lead us to the Kids’ Zone, where they played in the bouncy houses, and I eventually made my way back to the finish line to find electrolytes and wait for Kyle to finish. He came through right on schedule and finished with a solid 2:10:51, which he was pretty happy about considering he didn’t have the opportunity to train as much as he’d like to!

Overall, it was a great day and the Boogie team did an excellent job adapting the course to the changes that had to be made. I really liked that there were more water and bathroom stations available on the course, although there could have been more at the Start/Finish line. I also heard a rumour from some of the racers that the half-marathon distance was 300m too long, but since I didn’t run that distance and Kyle doesn’t have a tracking device, I can’t confirm that.

Anyway – a big shout out to the hardworking Boogie the Bridge crew for organizing another great run this year! We’re looking forward to next year’s run already!

 

What I’m Reading: American War

From the book jacket:

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war as one of the Miraculous Generation and now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past—his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.

My review:

I’m pretty sure the last dystopian novel I read was Animal Farm by George Orwell, and that was either in grade 10 or 11 English class. Let me just say that American War is no Animal Farm, with no offence to Orwell. 

American War, written by Egypt-born, Canada-based author Omar El Akkad, is an eye-opening idea of what the future of global politics could very well turn out to be. With everything already on its way to going to hell in a hand basket, El Akkad does an incredible job painting a vivid picture of what the world may very well be like in 50 years from now; climate change and earth’s diminishing resources are something that we are perhaps not taking seriously enough. 

While it may seem like the United States is being “picked on”, it only makes sense as the country is generally viewed as one of the biggest leaders in all things economical. It’s an interesting thing to see what it would be like if it reverted back 100 years and another Civil War broke out. What would be devastation look like? Who would be affected? If race is what drove the last war, what would propel this one? Natural resources seems like an obvious choice.

Two of the three Chestnut children, Sarat and Simon, are examples of how war robs children of their youth. When war is the only thing you seem to know growing up, it is seems only natural to join the fight for one reason or another. The third Chestnut child, Dana, is the sole family member who doesn’t seek out revenge for what has happened to her family, perhaps as an example of preserved innocence.

I tried to dig deep and find something that I didn’t like about American War, and quite frankly, I really enjoyed every bit of it. While a bit dense and containing some slight adult content, I really think it should be a required read for high schoolers. It’s eye-opening and thought-provoking.

My rating: ★★★★★/5