Wow this book was really brutal and, to be honest, quite depressing.
Why read it then?
What made me borrow this book was because it’s a translated comic, and one from Korea. I haven’t read many Korean comics, and this was a rare one on the library shelves.
The story is told from the perspective of 16-year-old Pearl, growing up in the 1990s in a poor neighbourhood in Seoul, South Korea. Her father is abusive, but then so is nearly every relative in the building she lives in, who treat her like a punching bag.
“But in all the times Dad beat me, I never once hated him.
Any parent would have done the same.”
Those lines just made me ache with anger and sadness.
Pearl has a group of close friends at school. Her best friend is Jeong-Ae and the two of them run away for a while, staying at a motel and trying to get work as hostesses. But they both eventually return home. While Pearl has an abusive father, she realizes that her family is more ‘normal’ than the other girls’ families, especially Jeong-Ae’s. That while her father beats her, there is still someone who cares for her and wants better for her. One day, Jeong-Ae doesn’t turn up at school and no one knows where she is, although rumors are rampant. Pearl, ten years later, wonders what happened to her best friend.
“Why did it take me so long to figure out that being beaten didn’t have to be part of life?”
I came away from this book wondering if Korean culture was still like that – this acceptance of physical abuse. Parents, usually fathers, hitting, kicking, punching their children. Students physically hurting each other in school. Even teachers abuse their students.
It’s not uncommon to have canes in households in Singapore, even today. I don’t know about schools now but when I was in primary school, I remember that some teachers had canes. Is it something that’s just more accepted in Asian societies?
A harsh but honest look at the lives of these young women. One of the most disturbing books I’ve read.
I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Poor or working class MC