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In May 1994, Thomas, a slacker vagabond teaching English, was arrested in Seoul, South Korea, for smuggling hashish into the country. He served three and a half years in various prisons and was released in 1997. In this strangely uneventful memoir, Thomas recounts his trials and tribulations in flat, unmodulated prose. Using an unnecessarily complicated flashback style at the beginning, Thomas presents himself as an innocent abroad—a symbol of the legions of disaffected middle-class youth wandering the globe aimlessly looking for, well, they don't really know. While teaching English to Korean children, Thomas falls in with an unsavory lot and heads to the Philippines for a drug deal. This goes awry, and he lands in prison, where he meets and befriends various other foreigners. One prison is like a U.N. of convicted losers. Most troubling is that while Thomas gives the reader plenty of detail and keeps the story moving forward well enough, he seems little affected by the experience. It is as though, as a relatively privileged American, Thomas is so stunned by being forced to serve his full term for his crime that he is unable or unwilling to be humbled by the experience. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* In 1994, Thomas was a bright young man just out of college, looking to satisfy his wanderlust by teaching English in South Korea. His taste for adventure was formed in early childhood when he and his brother invented an imaginary character named the "Jolly Marauder," a pirate-nobleman with a fearless heart and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Thomas claimed the Jolly Marauder as his life model, which influenced his decisions to accept the teaching job in Seoul, work there illegally without a contract, and buy a cheap kilo of hashish in the Philippines to sell back in Seoul for a cool 10 grand. The fantasy ended, however, when Thomas was caught by the police and sentenced to three and a half years in a South Korean prison. In his memoir, Thomas explains how that time of incarceration represented his real education. Surprisingly, he found little brutality (no rape) in Korea's penal institutions, but there were language barriers, unfamiliar foreign customs, extreme codes of social hierarchy, and almost no individual freedoms. He had to overcome all of this, as well as his own personal demons, to get to a place of higher understanding--something that, amazingly, he seemed to accomplish. His account of that journey is gripping. Jerry Eberle
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I'm an English teacher currently living in South Korea. It's cool to read about all the places I see on a daily basis, from the vantage point of 20 years ago. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Andelroo
Wasn't sure if this book was for me, but I am so happy to have read it. It is beautifully and intelligently written. Read morePublished on September 21, 2012 by Diane
Another successful attempt at crowding five pounds of material into a ten pound bag. Entire chapters can be skipped without losing the story thread.Published on April 26, 2012 by surveyor
I picked up _Brother One Cell_ just a few days before a business trip to Korea - it was the best the library had - hoping for "insights into Korean culture. Read morePublished on December 13, 2011 by chungking
Cullen Thomas's memoir, Brother One Cell, is a thriller about an American college graduate, nicknamed the Jolly Marauder, who grew up on Long Island dreaming about pirates,... Read morePublished on September 15, 2011 by Karol Nielsen
I read this book about 10 years after a friend of mine started teaching English in South Korea. In 2000 I went to visit him and met several of his friends who taught English there... Read morePublished on April 10, 2011 by Ed
This book is a good read. Its a little bit different from your usual 'caucasion-gets-busted-for-drugs-in-asia-and-spends-time-in-hellhole-prison' book as the prison in South Korea... Read morePublished on March 3, 2011 by Troy G
I've learned so much from Cullen, for example: how to take one day at a time; also, what a satisfying exercise it is to wish for the happiness and joy of someone with whom you have... Read morePublished on September 21, 2010 by hawthorne wood