Lilisin in 2021

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Lilisin in 2021

Editado: Feb 16, 8:30pm

Hello again everyone!

I read the most books I've ever read in a year in 2020, ending up with 46 books. Obviously the events of the year most likely had a great effect on this but I have also been placing a greater priority on reading as well. I feel I can and want to read even more. However, despite the increase in quantity it wasn't a very memorable reading year as I didn't fall in love with any of the books I read. I much preferred the nonfiction I read which has been interesting to see my shift towards nonfiction these days. This year I think I'd like to get back to the basics, my foundation: Japanese literature (and subsequently asian lit). I haven't been reading some of the Japanese books I own due to the lofty idea of wanting to read them in the original language, but I have to accept my current reading speed in Japanese and that if I want to read more books, I'll have to mix in other languages. But this is my big prediction for the year, more Japanese everything. Now, hopefully I'll actually update my thread as I read these books. That's the big thing I gave up on in 2020 so I'd like to fix that. In any case, as always, thanks to all the people who make the effort to lurk and comment on my threads. I really love the journey we are riding together.

Books in 2021:
1) Yeonmi Park : In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom
2) Kenzaburo Oe : A Quiet Life *abandoned
3) Takeshi Kaiko : Darkness in Summer *abandoned
4) Margaret Atwood : The Testaments
5) Sarah Krasnostein : The Trauma Cleaner

Books read in 2020 - 2019 - 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009

Ene 4, 4:02am

On the other hand, the more you read in the language, the better and faster you get at it. Even with Japanese with all the kanji I suspect - probably not as rapidly as with alphabet and abjad based languages but still. :) But yes - it can be annoying.

I will be keeping track of what you read - I seem to pick up a lot of Japanese books somehow and they work well for me :)

Ene 4, 6:42pm

You know I'm here to follow along no matter how much you post. Your threads our are always a wonder of information and great perspectives. I envy you can read Japanese, while I wait to see if I can get my hands on a translation. I am looking forward to adding yet more to my TBR from your reading lists.

Ene 4, 8:48pm

Happy 2021 L. I’ll be following.

Ene 5, 11:28pm

Happy New Year! I'm here dropping off my star.

Ene 6, 2:12am

Thank you everyone for the well wishes!

>2 AnnieMod:
Yes, it's the curse of anything you're trying to master, isn't it? If you do that thing more, you get better, but you have to do that thing more to get better. I just want to be good already! With Japanese there are definitely more pitfalls to slow you down versus the latin alphabet but the same theory still applies: read more to read faster. The problem is getting too comfortable at a certain level, thinking you've mastered the universe, and then getting crushed by it when you try to go up a level. Wait, am I talking about reading in Japanese or my violin lessons?

Ene 6, 2:56am

Happy new year! Looking forward to reading your reviews this year.

Ene 6, 1:51pm

Hello, continuing my voyage around the Club... impressed as ever with your Japanese projects and versatility.

Ene 6, 3:47pm

Happy new year. I'm looking forward to following your reading again this year. I always find interesting books and perspectives on those books, even if I rarely leave a post. I hope you'll enjoy your reading, whatever quantity and language you end up with!

Ene 6, 4:18pm

>6 lilisin: Wait, am I talking about reading in Japanese or my violin lessons?

Yes. :) Once you do master it, it all is worth it but the slog towards it can be... annoying. I had been playing with the idea of picking up a new language -- something outside of the language families I am somewhat familiar with and that's what really makes me stop and wonder - do I want to spend that much time on a new language when I can use the time reading in my languages... Oh well.

Ene 6, 6:55pm

>10 AnnieMod:

Yes, that temptation is real! I did a semester of Korean in college and I would love to pick it back up again but I have to think about what my purpose in learning the language is. Is it for a flex or do I have an actual goal? Also, Chinese. I would love to speak and read Chinese! But my other languages are suffering hard so I have to accept that I might have to stop here. Fortunately (unfortunately?) Japanese is a continuous study!

>8 LolaWalser:, >9 raton-liseur:
Thanks for stopping by. I feel the same way. I read every single post on your threads but you read so widely and so much it's hard to slip in a comment. But I always leave inspired!

Ene 7, 3:47am

Happy new year! Look forward to following along with your reading journey again this year (I tend to lurk).

Ene 9, 4:26pm

Hi lilisin, and Happy New Year! I'm always interested in following your reading, especially the Japanese reading.

Ene 22, 10:29am

Hi, just popping in to see what you are reading.

Editado: Feb 16, 8:31pm

What an unproductive start to the year reading rise. I tried reading two books that I abandoned half way through (and they were only 200 so pages long!) and so ended up with only one book in January as I slogged through the pages I did read on those other books.

And surprisingly, the two books I abandoned were both Japanese, basically the country I fall back to always when I don't know what to read!

1) Kenzaburo Oe : A Quiet Life *abandoned
This was supposed to be my first read of the year and it took two weeks just to read the first 100 pages at which point I decided that it was time for me to adopt a policy of it being okay to abandon books. I must admit to feeling a little bit of pressure to finishing this because a) it's an Oe and I like Oe!, and b) I feel like I'm known for reading Japanese books so I don't want my opinion to sway people's reactions too much. With this book, although few, all the reviews here on LT were glowing. I just couldn't get through it.

This book is sort of a meta book where Oe expresses his sense of guilt at abandoning his handicapped child via a character who is also an author and who has left to the US with his wife for a writing workshop, leaving his 20 year old daughter behind to take care of her older handicapped brother. We do not follow the author's perspective and instead we follow the daughter as she goes about her duties and talks to family and friends as they discuss the emotion left pending in the air.

This book has a topic I should have fallen in love with, especially as I absolutely loved A Personal Matter, which had also explored the topic of a father's guilt to having a handicapped child. But while that book was bold, daring, and almost vulgar, this book was almost heavy with its mundane-ness. And unfortunately I just couldn't get through it. There were sections I found myself confused at wondering what they had to do with the topic of the book and I couldn't read 10 pages without finding myself staring at the walls in boredom.

So yes, I abandoned this. It just wasn't for me. Maybe it's for others as other reviews seem to prove, but this book was just a bit too quiet for me.

2) Takeshi Kaiko : Darkness in Summer *abandoned
Another story I couldn't get through, but this time not through the way the story is presented as the writing is superb (not to say Oe's writing isn't wonderful but Kaiko is indeed fantastic at describing the tension in a scene), but instead due to the story itself. A story of two former lovers who find themselves together again in Germany and fall into the same disastrous tendencies they had back in Japan. The woman had initially escaped Japan due to the patriarchal society preventing her from succeeding as a woman, just to find herself back into the clutches of her former lover, a man without passion or direction who spends his days sleeping and dragging her down with him.

Me abandoning this book was a case of not liking the characters, which is typically fine with me as I don't have to find characters likeable to enjoy a book. But as he dragged down his former lover, he was also dragging me down with him and I just had to let go of the book to escape his clutch.

While I relatively enjoyed Kaiko's other book Into a Black Sun about a Japanese journalist reporting on the Vietnam War, I had mostly enjoyed that book because of the interesting perspective: a perfectly neutral view of the war. But with this book, I don't think I'll be revisiting Kaiko's work again. It's funny because the blurb on the front cover of my book states that Japanese critics state Kaiko is the best Japanese author since Kobo Abe himself and all I find myself wondering is who the hell these critics are and how many of them there actually are.

Feb 12, 9:32am

>15 lilisin: Too bad Oe was so lackluster in this one, sounds harder to see your guilt through another character without watering it down.

I can totally see Kaiko's work dragging you down. Even in into a Black Sun he didn't treat his lover with much compassion, remaining at a distance. Never really being honest with her. An entire book of that would be awful in the extreme.

Sucks to start the year off on the wrong foot. Here's hoping the rest of your year turns around!

Feb 24, 12:48am

3) Yeonmi Park : In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom

This became my official first read of the year after I abandoned the other two, and I'm very happy it ended up being the first book of the year as I was very much immersed in Yeonmi Park's story. In it she tells of her upbringing in North Korea, going from a comfortable middle class to losing everything and having to live off grass clippings in the mountains as her father tempted fate with a smuggling business.

From here she explains how the conditions in North Korea got to such a point that her sister decided she was going to escape, upon which Yeonmi and her mother follow, although are separated along the way. Yeonmi further discusses her time in China under the hands of her smuggler, then her crossing into Mongolia to finally make her way to South Korea.

It's an exhausting story and you can only feel admiration for Yeonmi in surviving and sticking to her morals. She was quite fortunate in her misfortune but I suppose those who survive to write memoirs are inherently fortunate.

This is a story I'm quite familiar with now but it remains nevertheless mindboggling that a human should have to go through such a thing. There were two parts however that truly struck me as horrendous; even more than the livelihood she had to go through when in China and was being pressed by her smuggler for sexual relations at 13 years old. What really killed me was the role of her "saviors". Yeonmi's escape route to South Korea via Mongolia is possible via the help of a missionary. To keep his or her identity secret she mentions nothing of their nationality or any other identifying points of interest. But she tells how she was required to study the Bible, repeat the verses and pray, to join the party that crosses the border. At one point, when her group is finally chosen to cross, the missionary says she can't go because she has sins she hasn't repented for yet. Basically, the missionary is implying that she was in the sex trade and that she should confess these horrible sexual sins. Although Yeonmi was actually able to escape becoming a prostitute, it shouldn't matter. The fact that this missionary, this supposed man of god (no, god does not deserve a capital G here), would risk someone's life just to satisfy his imaginary friend is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. That doesn't make you a man of god, that makes you a man trying to play god. Fortunately Yeonmi is clever here and says how pretending to pray to this god of the missionary is no different than how she was brought up in North Korea to basically pray to the Kims, and she manages to persuade the missionary to let her cross over. But I still left disgusted.

Another instance where I was horrified was once she finally makes it to South Korea. All North Korean refugees are placed into an institution for a few months to help them transition to this new world. They are taught the facts behind the Korea War, and are re-versed in actual history, while also being taught how to enter a modern society with phones and bank accounts. Here again, an employee basically looked down upon Yeonmi and doubted Yeonmi's assertion that she wasn't in the sex trade. That an employee working for an organization that helps refugees would dare to judge someone who has just had to endure horrors upon horrors to survive was again, disgusting. And a fellow woman at that! Ugh ugh ugh!

In any case, I really enjoyed this memoir.

Ayer, 6:21am

I'm glad to hear you broke you "bad book" streak. Upwards and onwards!