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My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth Paperback – May 3, 2016
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"You remember Eat, Love, Pray and Under the Tuscan Sun? Yeah, this really isn’t like those. It’s better.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“...funny, witty, and fascinating....if you have a weird fascination for North Korea and need a little laughter and raw utter truth as to what it is like vacationing there then I urge you to go read this book.” ―San Francisco Book Review
“…an irresistible read…. Simmons presents a rare and fascinating look at the tourist's North Korea in a work that is humorous, appalling, and very sad. A highly recommended and revealing glimpse into a secretive land.” ―Library Journal
“A death-defying adventure, filled with despair and tiny pieces of hope, and beautiful ― I wish I was as brave as Wendy.” (James Altucher Bestselling author, entrepreneur, podcaster)
“Wendy Simmons traveled to a place few of us will ever go and found herself in the ultimate Potemkin Village. Her intrepid desire to discover the reality behind the stagecraft escorts the reader through My Holiday in North Korea with words and pictures that render this mysterious country both knowable and unknowable, and always fascinating. Simmons’ insightful and funny storytelling evocatively captures the deception, corruption, humor and, ultimately, anguished humanity of a bizarre nation. It’s a wild trip.” (Jon Reiner James Beard Award-winning author of The Man Who Couldn’t Eat)
“My Holiday In North Korea by the very funny Wendy Simmons is a must-read for anyone who wants to lift the veil and spy on the real North Korea. But more than that, it is Ms. Simmons ease at being a traveler to distant and strange lands that gives this book its unusual insight into what people behind a real iron curtain think, and yes, feel.” (Maria T. Lemmon Novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, and Making It Up as I go Along)
“Wendy Simmons gives a glimpse into NoKo in this humorous and entertaining book. Through her eyes we see the sometimes absurd, yet always aching existence of a country under the thumb of oppressive rule.” (Myles Kennedy Singer/Songwriter Alter Bridge/Slash & The Conspirators)
“Writer and photographer Wendy Simmons shares a personal account of her vacation to one of the most reclusive nations on the planet, North Korea. During her journey she finds herself caught between an international crisis sparked by the release of the Sony Pictures film The Interview and accidentally crashing the ‘wedding’ of a North Korean bride to be.” (Gabriel Sanchez Buzzfeed)
From the Back Cover
A born explorer, she is thrilled when granted a rare entry visa―despite the country’s penchant for detaining tourists.
In My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, Wendy offers readers a glimpse of North Korea as it’s never been seen before. Because even though it’s one of the scariest places on Earth, she somehow forgets to check her sense of humor at the border. Even worse, she’s never met a rule she didn’t want to break!
Oh my Dear Leader.
But Wendy’s initial amusement and bewilderment soon turn into frustration and growing paranoia. For ten days, she hurtles through a “North Korea is Great! America is Not!” tour. She’s attached by a virtual shock-collar to two female handlers, who monitor her every step―and guard their every word. And Wendy’s pretty convinced one of them is crazy, even by North Korean standards.
Before long, she learns the essential conundrum of “tourism” in North Korea.
“Travel is truly a love affair. But, just like love, it’s a two-way street. And North Korea deprives you of all this. They want you to fall in love with the singular vision of the country they’re willing to show you and nothing more.”
Ultimately she’s left with more questions than answers―the most urgent being whether she can find a bathroom with running water, electricity, AND toilet paper!
Through poignant and laugh-out-loud essays, Wendy chronicles one of the strangest vacations ever. Along the way she bares all while trying to befriend her enigmatic minders, and undergoes an inner journey as convoluted as the country itself.
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"I remember thinking it was more time than a typical American vacation but less than the twelve to fifteen weeks before puppies are fully vaccinated and finally allowed to go to the dog park to play."
If you want a travelogue with nonsense like the above, filled with snark and sarcasm where its impossible to tell what actually happened, and think the above statement is clever, buy this book. Otherwise, avoid is, because the writer is more concerned with interjecting her nonsense than actually telling story.
Most complaints from other reviewers focus on Wendy Simmons' attitude during her travels, and I have to admit, it was pretty glaring to me, too, as I was reading: Wendy is kind of a bitch. Then again, as another "American Imperialist," I have to say that I get it. I mean, this is a country that brainwashes their citizens from birth to hate everything about us. They're incessantly lied to, suppressed, and left to starve while their failed political system is touted as "the greatest country on earth." Wendy steps into this country and while her guides are telling her how awful the Americans are and force-feeding her the same false propaganda they've heard all their lives, she's standing there questioning, "Why aren't there patients at this hospital? Why do you confiscate all the twins and triplets born in this country and hide them away in state-run orphanages? Why are the schoolchildren so miserable? Why isn't there running water? Where are the books in this library? Where are the stores? How do people buy groceries? " While most have criticized her attitude towards the North Koreans as being insensitive and rude, and I agree, I have to say that given the favorable way she describes the rest of her world travels and the unique situation of North Korea being pretty damn crazy, her unfavorable attitude towards the North Koreans is probably a one-off thing. I tried to not get bogged down by it and actually found a lot of her commentary funny, given the ludicrosity of her circumstances. Even in my own experiences, where I was taking classes in the Middle East and the professor told me that a woman is worth 1/4 of a man, I couldn't help my American attitude escaping and shutting that argument down.
Lately I've been super interested in North Korea and have read a lot of fascinating books about the harrowing escapes of some of their citizens, but this book brought a new look at the country from a tourist's perspective, and I found myself highly entertained. There were many, many pictures included in the book, too, that I found absolutely fascinating. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a funny travel memoir (maybe along the lines of Chelsea Handler's Uganda Be Kidding Me) and isn't easily offended.
Despite the fact that she has supposedly traveled to so many countries, she obviously doesn't understand Asian societies. Never would anyone ask disrespectful questions or questions which might shame the people out their culture, yet this is what she does repeatedly throughout her 10 day trip. So much so, that her driver refused to even acknowledge her when she left. She talks about the"playful" banter they shared, but this"playful banter"doesn't exist in most Asian societies. Instead, she continuously caused her driver to lose face in front of his co-workers. No wonder he wouldn't even acknowledge her when she left. She also says how he refused to hug her--- a simple thing she would have understood, most Asians don't hug, especially Koreans and especially not with friends, let alone acquaintances!!!
Despite painting herself as a fine Jewish woman, practically every page had the F word, or something along those lines. The book should be marked as having explicit language.
She says she intuitively "gets" what's happening, faster than her friends, but it's obvious, to someone understanding Asian culture, that she had no idea what was going on, most of her trip. Throughout the book you see her drawing quick inferences about what's happening, and then proceeds too judge these poor repressed people ruthlessly. She was obviously dealing with culture stress, and taking it out on her handlers and the driver.
Her handlers we're giving her clues as to what they "had to tell her," yet she continues to mock then incessantly. She points out to them everything that's wrong about their country. Then she wonders why they are rude with her. In other cases she talks about interactions with sales people, or other situations and she's equally blind to the cultural aspect.
I was absolutely furious with this woman, who gave Americans a terribly bad name, towards the end of the book.