Ten Thousand Sorrows

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9780385496339: Ten Thousand Sorrows

They called it an "honor killing," but to Elizabeth Kim, the night she watched her grandfather and uncle hang her mother from the wooden rafter in the corner of their small Korean hut, it was cold-blooded murder. Her Omma had committed the sin of lying with an American soldier, and producing not just a bastard but a honhyol--a mixed-race child, considered worth less than nothing.

Left at a Christian orphanage in postwar Seoul like garbage, bleeding and terrified, Kim unwittingly embarked on the next phase of her extraordinary life when she was adopted by a childless Fundamentalist pastor and his wife in the United States. Unfamiliar with Western customs and language, but terrified that she would be sent back to the orphanage, or even killed, Kim trained herself to be the perfect child. But just as her Western features doomed her in Korea, so her Asian features served as a constant reminder that she wasn't good enough for her new, all-white environment.

After escaping her adoptive parents' home, only to find herself in an abusive and controlling marriage, Kim finally made a break for herself by having a daughter and running away with her to a safer haven--something Omma could not do for her.

Unflinching in her narration, Kim tells of her sorrows with a steady and riveting voice, and ultimately transcends them by laying claim to all the joys to which she is entitled.

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Review:

Ten Thousand Sorrows starts with its young narrator watching her mother's murder; improbably, things go downhill from there. "Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood," Frank McCourt famously wrote in Angela's Ashes. But McCourt's hardscrabble youth looks like a walk in the park compared to the experiences of Elizabeth Kim. The child of an illicit union between a Korean mother and an American father, Kim grows up the object of disgust and contempt in rural Korea. As a honhyol, or mixed-race child, she isn't considered a person at all.

Yet her mother refuses to sell her into servitude, and for that show of compassion she pays with her life. In the harrowing scene that opens the book, Kim watches from a hiding place as her mother--the victim of a so-called honor killing--is hanged from a rafter: "All I could see through the bamboo slats were her bare feet, dangling in midair. I watched those milk-white feet twitch, almost with the rhythm of the Hwagwan-mu dance, and then grow still." Left alone in the world, without so much as a name or date of birth, Kim ends up in an orphanage where she spends hours on end locked in a crib that resembles a cage. Things ought to look up when an American couple adopts her. Instead, one form of abuse merely replaces another, as the pastor and his wife tell Kim that her mother "left her to die in a rice paddy" and immediately take away any toy or pet to which she develops an attachment. Later, Kim escapes into a young marriage (arranged, naturally, by her fundamentalist parents), only to find no refuge there either. Surely there is a special place in hell reserved for her husband, the kind of pathological sadist who becomes aroused only by inflicting pain.

By this point, the reader begins to feel like something of a sadist herself. It's a tribute to Kim's skill as a writer that we can't look away from her pain, even when it might feel more comfortable to do so. True, she does leave her husband, make herself a new life with her daughter, begin a journalism career without benefit of training or degree--all of which demonstrates an amazing tenacity and inner strength. Yet the latter half of the book employs the familiar vocabulary of healing without doing much to convince. Reconciled with her experiences, Kim doesn't necessarily seem to have finished processing them. Her book has all the raw urgency of a call to 911: it feels written for the author's very survival. --Chloe Byrne

From the Back Cover:

Advance praise for Elizabeth Kim's Ten Thousand Sorrows:

"Each of the strands braided together to make up Elizabeth Kim's remarkable life is tragic, and in this frank and simple chronicle, she makes of them a thing of beauty more harrowing than any novel."
--Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

"In pristine and exquisite prose, Ten Thousand Sorrows tells one of the most harrowing stories I have ever encountered in print; it is a book that must be read by anyone serious about memoirs, the Asian-American experience, or what it means to be a woman in the twenty-first century. Kim has written a poignant and masterful memoir destined to find a permanent place in American literature."
--Sapphire, author of Push

"Ten Thousand Sorrows is a magnificent tribute to the power of forgiveness. Elizabeth Kim writes with clarity, honesty, and power about the enduring longing for a mother's love."
--Dave Pelzer, author of A Man Named Dave, The Lost Boy, and A Child Called "It"

"Sobre este título" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

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Editorial: Doubleday (2000)
ISBN 10: 0385496338 ISBN 13: 9780385496339
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