Title: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 (original title: 82년생 김지영)
Writer: Cho Nam-Joo (tr. by Jamie Chang)
Publishing House: Scribner UK
Date of Publication: February 20th 2020 (first published October 14th 2016)
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Help out? What is it with you and ‘’helping out?’’ You’re going to ‘’help out’’ with chores. ‘’Help out’’ with raising your baby. ‘’Help out’’ with finding me a new job. Isn’t this your house, too? Your home? Your child? And if I work, don’t spend my pay, too? Why do you keep saying ‘’help out’’ like you’re volunteering to pitch in on someone else’s work?’’
You are harassed at school by a cruel boy. Your teacher smiles and tells you it’s because he ‘’likes’’ you, this is how boys communicate their…affection and you’ll eventually get used to it. You are threatened with rape at a bus stop, thankfully saved by a considerate lady. Your father blames your stubbornness in choosing an after-school activity and implies that your skirt is too short. Your idle, lazy, useless brother has the right to take the largest portion during dinner while you and your sister HAVE to be happy with whatever is left. I mean, why aren’t YOU happy with that? And it doesn’t stop there. Oh, no. Your mother supports you and urges you to follow your dream. And you do. You deserve a promotion but you’re overlooked because you lack a penis. You get married and go through the Holy Inquisition organised by your (moron) husband’s relatives on how to conceive a child. And it had better be a boy, ok? We need BOYS! The ones who will benefit our bloody society. You give up your work and you’re called a parasite living off your husband’s hard-earned money. And then, you fall apart…Once more, welcome to Hell.
Meaning, a society reserved only for men.
If you are one of those who glorify certain countries and their way of life, it is urgent that you should read this book. Without the need for elaborate language and flowery descriptions, Cho Nam-Joo creates a novel that is the very definition of a punch in the stomach. It exposes all the ways a society can and does go horribly wrong, oppressing, abusing, violating. All with the blessings of a system that changes too little, too slowly, too inadequately. It mirrors issues that have been going on for so long in every society of our world and the fact that every single one of our weaknesses will be exploited by states and family alike. Do you find the strength to stand up or do you let yourself be smothered by habit and shameless direct and indirect blackmailing and abusing? This outstanding novel leaves little room for hope…
‘’You’re right, in a world where doctors can cure cancer and do heart transplants, there isn’t a single pill to treat menstrual cramps.’ Her sister pointed at her own stomach. ‘’The world wants our uterus to be drug-free. Like sacred grounds in a virgin forest.’’