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Banned book club
2020
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College freshman Kim Hyun Sook, who seeks refuge from a totalitarian regime in the comfort of books, unexpectedly joins an underground banned book club, where the delights of discovering works of illicit literature are overshadowed by fear and violence. - (Baker & Taylor)

Documents the gripping true story of the South Korean author’s student days under the authoritarian regime of the early 1980s, describing how she defied state censorship laws by joining an underground banned book club to read great works of literature. Original. Illustrations. - (Baker & Taylor)

The gripping true story of a South Korean woman's student days under an authoritarian regime in the early 1980s, and how she defied state censorship through the rebellion of reading. - (Perseus Publishing)

A Junior Library Guild Selection

"Highly recommended for readers passionate about activism." — SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, Starred Review

"Sure to inspire today’s youthful generation of tenacious changemakers." — BOOKLIST, Starred Review

"The messages of hope are universal." — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Starred Review

"A timely read about friendship amid chaos." — NPR

"It’s hard to imagine a world where Banned Book Club could be more relevant than it is right now." — A.V. CLUB

When Kim Hyun Sook started college in 1983 she was ready for her world to open up. After acing her exams and sort-of convincing her traditional mother that it was a good idea for a woman to go to college, she looked forward to soaking up the ideas of Western Literature far from the drudgery she was promised at her family’s restaurant. But literature class would prove to be just the start of a massive turning point, still focused on reading but with life-or-death stakes she never could have imagined.

This was during South Korea's Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protestors. In this charged political climate, with Molotov cocktails flying and fellow students disappearing for hours and returning with bruises, Hyun Sook sought refuge in the comfort of books. When the handsome young editor of the school newspaper invited her to his reading group, she expected to pop into the cafeteria to talk about Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Scarlet Letter. Instead she found herself hiding in a basement as the youngest member of an underground banned book club. And as Hyun Sook soon discovered, in a totalitarian regime, the delights of discovering great works of illicit literature are quickly overshadowed by fear and violence as the walls close in.

In BANNED BOOK CLUB, Hyun Sook shares a dramatic true story of political division, fear-mongering, anti-intellectualism, the death of democratic institutions, and the relentless rebellion of reading.

- (Perseus Publishing)

Author Biography

Kim Hyun Sook was born in Changwon, South Korea. She became a member of a banned book club in the 1980s while studying English Language and Literature. This is her first book. She has co-written comics for websites including The Nib and Oh Joy Sex Toy, and she translated Lady Rainicorn’s dialogue for Adventure Time comics. She now runs a new banned book club in Busan, where she lives with her husband, Ryan, and her cat, Dog Baby.

Ryan Estrada is the author of POORCRAFT: WISH YOU WERE HERE, Learn to Read Korean in 15 Minutes, Ryan Made Mistakes, Wish You Were Here, Broken Telephone, Aki Alliance, and many other comics. He started submitting his work to newspapers when he was six years old, and one of those very newspapers finally hired him when he was 16. He has had many adventures around the world since, but the best thing he ever did was marry Kim Hyun Sook.

- (Perseus Publishing)

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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Busan-based wife-and-husband team Kim and Estrada mine Kim's young adult experiences to expose a chilling period of recent Korean history so antithetical to the globally addictive entertainment of K-dramas and K-pop currently synonymous with South Korea. In 1983, Hyun Sook is a college freshman, determined to get the education her mother resents but her father, thankfully, supports. Her campus arrival is met with a student riot in progress calling for the dismissal of President Chun Doo-hwan over his totalitarian dictatorship. Hyun Sook manages to slip past police blockades and arrive at class, further determined to keep her head down, study, and "stay out of politics!" As an English literature major, she's thrilled to be invited to a book club, but what she enters is anything but a cozy circle of tea-sipping groupies. Hyun Sook attempts to flee but not without hearing first that she has "some waking up to do." Despite lingering reluctance, Hyun Sook's quest for truth and understanding is on even as she fights her justified fears. In recreating such difficult history, artist Ko finds a remarkable balance of humor and bleakness, of youthful tenacity and growing cynicism. From joyous mask dances to bored classrooms to tortuous jail cells, Ko affectingly captures Kim's activist-as-a-young-student journey with an affecting resonance sure to inspire today's youthful generation of tenacious changemakers. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

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