The author was inspired to write this novel because of her work with North Koreans, now living in Northern China. One looks at the cover, the smiling apparently happy little girls, all for show, like most things are in North Korea. They were in fact little girls from a state run orphanage, and played as an honor to important personages and to their leader. A dancer is what all young girls inspire to be, because if they are a dancer they are provided food, shelter and a community of girls.
This novel book reads like a memoir, told with little emotion which when one understands what these people go through, all the sorrow in their lives, near starvation, friend disappearing, families murdered., Once one is politically suspect the whole family is punished and all associates are tarred with the same brush, their is not redeeming oneself, they must be forever careful.
Jia herself, is a wonder and modeled on a real person, but she also has some amazing luck. When her luck finally runs out and she escapes to China, she eventually meets more people who care about her and help her.. She in fortunate, but many of her friends were no,t as the reader also learns. Many give up, many have hope and keep going, thinking something better is just around the corner. Important book for those who are curious or interested in North Korea. The writing seems simplistic at times, but it is easy to read though the subject matter is not.
So hard to believe that in this day and time so much of this still goes on in the world.