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A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea by [Ishikawa, Masaji]
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A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea Kindle Edition

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Length: 174 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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From the Editor

When I read headlines about North Korea, the first thing that comes to mind is a cartoonish image of the country’s leader, projected on large screens in front of military displays, bragging about testing nuclear weapons. But what about the regular people like you and me? It’s difficult to imagine the challenges they face while raising families, while living their everyday lives. Enter Masaji Ishikawa, who has risked his safety and the safety of his family members—if any of them remain alive—to come forward with a daring story of escape.

Only a few scraps of information make their way across the barbed-wire borders of nations and ideologies that divide America from North Korea. Add the physical distance between us and it’s clear why we don’t automatically feel a kinship with people living in Pyongyang, Dong Chong-ri, or Wonsan. But A River in Darkness breathed life into the “enemy,” revealing warmth, humanity, and dignity in the face of a man we come to know well. Mr. Ishikawa has lost everything, but he holds out hope that at least one of his sons is alive—and that, perhaps, if more people know his story, his son might learn that his dad is alive and safe in Japan.

It is my hope that by sharing this story with you I will share the empathy that overwhelmed me while reading. What do we do with this newfound connection to our fellow human beings—those living next door as well as those living across the world? Perhaps we will all feel encouraged to promote peace in our neighborhoods, vote for things we believe in, reach out to those in need, and realize that there are always real people involved in current events—some of them fathers who go to bed each night dreaming of reconnecting with their sons.

- Gabriella Page-Fort, Editor

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Editorial Reviews


“A terrifying true story of life in North Korea…Told in simple prose, this is a shocking and devastating tale of a country’s utter contempt for its citizens.” Kirkus Reviews

“In his achingly straightforward memoir, Ishikawa vividly describes the horrendous conditions that the tyrannical and cultish state inflicts on its people…Ishikawa relates his painful story with sardonic humor and unwavering familial love even in the depths of despair, making human the often impersonal news coverage of mysterious and threatening North Korea.” Booklist (starred review)

“Like Kang Chol-hwan’s The Aquariums of Pyongyang (2001)—the book that spurred President George W. Bush’s commitment to helping the people of North Korea—Mr. Ishikawa’s…descriptions of North Korean poverty are chilling, as are his accounts of the corruption and repression that dominated every aspect of life there…searing, swiftly paced.” Wall Street Journal

“Masaji Ishikawa was born in Japan to a Korean father but repatriated as a boy to the supposed paradise of North Korea. Newly translated into English, this account of his life and appalling times should become a classic.” South China Morning Post

“We often turn to books to help us understand people, experiences, and worldviews different from our own. If you’re looking to further your education in 2018, pick up A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea. In his memoir, translated from Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa recounts his turbulent childhood and life under a totalitarian regime in North Korea. Yes, you’ll learn about the country’s politics, leaders, and economy. But more importantly, you’ll learn about the people who live there and what it’s like to be on the lower end of the social hierarchy.” —HelloGiggles

“Compulsively readable and heart-wrenching, A River in Darkness reveals the daily cruelty of North Korea’s government to its poorest people. In this memoir, the victim is a young Japanese-born Korean who settles in the North with his parents, only to endure privation and abuse, as those he loves die of exhaustion, hunger, and loss of hope.” —Blaine Harden, New York Times bestselling author of Escape from Camp 14 and King of Spies: The Dark Reign of America’s Spymaster in Korea

About the Author

Born in 1947 in Kawasaki, Japan, Masaji Ishikawa moved with his parents and three sisters to North Korea in 1960 at the age of thirteen, where he lived until his escape in 1996. He currently resides in Japan.

Product details

  • File Size: 3144 KB
  • Print Length: 174 pages
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossing (January 1, 2018)
  • Publication Date: January 1, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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