11 January, 2010

Jid Lee’s TO KILL A TIGER (Overlook Press) in a mesmerizing blend of memoir and social history combines the author’s account of her girlhood in South Korea with the dramatic story of South Korea’s tumultuous road to democracy. Proclaims Grace M. Cho, author of Haunting the Korean Diaspora: “The publication of this book is a triumph and a testament to Lee’s courage.” Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, documentary filmmaker and author (Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women) adds: “The book shatters all stereotypical images of Asian women.”


Grandmother…established a seating chart for the family. At dinner, Father sat at a small table perched beside the big round one for his wife and children, and big Brother and Less Big Brother sat side by side next to Father. I was placed at the opposite end from them with Big Sister, the oldest child, because girls had to be closer to the kitchen to serve the men. Mother squished into the spot next to Big Sister, and facing her, between the boys and the girls, Grandmother enforced the DMZ. She didn’t have to watch Big Sister because Big Sister was a good kid, helpful and obedient. But I was different, always trying to poach from the fresh food and asking for more than I should. While the younger women ate the men’s leftovers, the older women scraped what was stuck at the bottom of the dishes. According to Grandmother, this hierarchy was a perfect system for a Korean family, whose success was dependent on the men’s strength and intelligence. Our destiny was in the hands of the Three Men of the Family—Father, Big Brother, and Less Big Brother.
Yet this very same woman believed in my ability to achieve greatness. I was confused.
I felt I was in a tiger’s stomach. I wanted to get out. I realized my dreams of achieving were made possible by my nightmares.