Some books take a reader by storm, and then some books take an entire nation by storm! The book you’re going to discover today (if you haven’t already!) belongs to the latter category.
Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 (Review)
It is no secret that being a woman is hard. In one lifetime alone, every woman goes through infinite emotionally exhausting experiences, in big and small ways, each leaving an imprint on her soul. While popular hashtags such as #notallmen float around cyberspace to show men’s solidarity with various women’s issues, unfortunately, women cannot get away with a #notallwomen hashtag, having at some point been a victim of patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny, both at home and outside.
Keeping with this theme, Cho Nam-Ju’s novel “Kim Ji-young, Born 1982” tells the story of an ordinary woman’s journey from birth through adolescence, marriage, and motherhood. Originally published in Korean in 2016 and translated into English only recently, the book triggered the #MeToo movement in the country and was both hailed and criticized for its feminist undertones.
The plot is simple! Kim Ji-young is acting strange. An otherwise happy-go-lucky woman in love with her life and job, she has not been herself post the birth of her dear baby girl. Kim Ji-young’s personality changes were first noticed by her loving and ever-supportive husband, who begins to worry that his wife may be experiencing post-partum blues. From there, we are taken through her life and the varied experiences that led her to this state.
No big words are used, nor are there any mind-blowing twists. In just 176 pages, by relaying the otherwise run-of-the-mill, everyday occurrences of a woman’s life, Cho Nam-Ju makes you stop and wonder why these seemingly small incidents, that should take center stage, are often dismissed and belittled by a society that never fails to make their opinions heard loud and clear about the economy, politics, law, and other “relevant” subjects. Every page in this book reeks of discrimination, marginalization, harassment, and exploitation. And lest we think that the issues women face are overtly hyped and exaggerated in the book, hardcore evidence in the form of reliable statistics is presented at every turn to highlight the differences in the treatment meted out to men and women.
While the book is centered on Korean women, this is a story that will speak to every single woman, irrespective of her geography and culture. Take this excerpt, for example:
“Jiyoung grew up being told to be cautious, to dress conservatively, to be ‘ladylike’. That it’s your job to avoid dangerous places, times of day and people. It’s your fault for not noticing and not avoiding.”
“Dress modestly!” is a piece of advice and reproach most girls would have grown up hearing. This is just one situation. Throughout the book, Kim Ji-young is held accountable and penalized for things that are not her doing.
A woman myself, my heart reached out to Kim Ji-young. Most characters in the book, barring the husband and the psychiatrist, are unaware of the extent to which they have internalized patriarchy and sexism, deeming them to act insensitively towards the prime women of their lives, be it their wife, mother, or daughter. Even the men who are shown to be empathetic are in some situations helpless, being caught in the webs of a patriarchal society. The ending is very realistic and presents society as what it is vis-à-vis other novels where a happily ever after ending is reached. Needless to say, it left me with a very heavy heart!
While the book may appear to be a short read, making one presume that it can be finished in one sitting, in its pages lie thought-provoking questions that the reader wouldn’t be able to escape. And in relaying the story to an international audience who may unfamiliar with the Korean culture and ways of life, Jamie Chang has done an amazing job in capturing the feelings and emotions of the characters in a way that makes them relatable to its readers.
Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, is a five-star worthy must-read, not just for every woman out there but the men too, to understand what it means to be a woman! Truly a short but impactful read! You can get the book here! 📖
Naomi Nair is a passionate bookworm who actualizes in writing and looks to words to help her make sense of the world. She sees life as a long lesson punctuated by impactful insights and is devoted to exploring and experiencing the big adventure one book at a time.
Kim Ji-young, Born 1982
Some books take a reader by storm, and then some books take an entire nation by storm! The book you're going to discover today (if you haven't already!) belongs to the latter category.
Author: Cho Nam-ju