January 2016 Issue
December 21, 2015

Check it Out - A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea

Author: By Eunsun Kim with Sebastien Falletti
Source: NYSUT United
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Check it Out: A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North KoreaRecommended by: Patricia Mahr, ELA/ESL teacher, High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies, Manhattan, United Federation of Teachers member.

Suitable for: Grades 7–12

Why I chose it: This gripping mem­oir about lost childhood, lost loved ones, lost objects and lost innocence suc­ceeds in inspiring readers as the narra­tor, Eunsun, takes us back to her brave, 11-year-old self. Interweaving the pres­ent and past, the author believes in the power of words to demonstrate that lives matter and that the will to survive pushes one to endure and overcome obstacles.

What I like best: Eunsun reveals the evils of totalitarian life in North Korea: starvation, labor camps, public execu­tions, indoctrination, bribery and fixed elections. Information about the outside world is not allowed. With her mother and sisters, Eunsun embarks on a years-long escape route that leads to home­lessness, brutal interrogations, human trafficking, smuggling and adverse physi­cal terrains. Through it all, the author still expresses gratitude for the kindness of strangers; determination to continue her education; and steadfast optimism that the world will pay attention to the plight of her fellow North Koreans.

How teachers can use it: This book is relevant in today’s prominent dis­cussions about refugees and immigrant children. Students can write memoirs us­ing themes such as fitting in, overcoming obstacles, memorable objects and admi­rable traits. Social Studies students can discuss or write on issues such as to­talitarian societies, illegal immigration or refugee crises. They can analyze Korean, Chinese and Mongolian traditions.

About the authors: It took Eunsun Kim and her family nine years to escape. Her father and grandfather had already starved to death before her mother es­caped with her three daughters. The author writes under a pseudonym to protect relatives still in North Korea. She now lives in South Korea and works for a human rights organization. Paris-born Sebastien Falletti is the Korean corre­spondent based in Seoul and Shanghai for the French newspaper Le Figaro. For more, visit http://us.macmillan.com/athousandmilestofreedom/eunsunkim.


"Check it Out" features books recommended to teachers and parents by school librarians and other educators. Have a recommendation? Send suggestions, along with your name and local union, to lfrenett@nysutmail.org.

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