Monday, August 11, 2014

Daughters of the Dragon

Daughters of the Dragon: A Comfort Woman's Story
William Andrews
MADhouse Press
Minneapolis, MN
ISBN: 978-0-9913958-5-9
Trade Paperback
$ 12.99
339 pages

"It is your fear that will prevent you from becoming who you are meant to be."

Being a Korean child adopted into a Caucasian household, Anna frequently felt that she did not belong.  People would make comments to her parents while her parents always insisted that they were a "real" family beautifully showing their unconditional love to their daughter.  Anna realized that the parents who raised her and were completely devoted to her but she always wondered about her "birth" parents.

After completing three years at Northwestern, Anna still didn't have a major.  When her mother
passed away from pancreatic cancer, she dropped out of college due to money and her lack of focus.  She decided to visit Korea to find her "birth" family and her father insisted on accompanying her on this journey.

Anna's first stop was an orphanage which unfortunately had no information to assist her.  With feelings of defeat, leaving the orphanage was disappointing.  When an elderly woman approached her, forcing a small package into her hands explaining in English that she needed to meet with her at an address inside the package to tell her a story.

This story and the package were to change Anna's life forever. 

The story started in 1943 when Korea was again occupied by the Japanese being subjected to their rule.  Two sisters, Ja-hee and Soo-hee had grown up living and working on their family farm.  With the Japanese occupation, their father was forced to leave the home a year ago to work for the war effort in a steel mill.  Now the family received orders for the two girls to also leave for another town to work in a boot factory.  Their mother was realistic enough to know that she would likely never see her daughters again.  Soo-hee, the older sister was given a family heirloom, a two-headed dragon comb with five toes.  

This begins the story of the comb and the two sisters.

With Ja-hee being only fourteen-years-old the reality was shocking.  There was no boot factory.  These young teens were to be comfort women, meeting the sexual desires of the Japanese soldiers.  If they refused or caused problems, they were killed. 

Even surviving this time, these women were further condemned by society throughout their entire lives. 

William Andrews has written a poignant, heart-wrenching fictional tale based on the many stories of comfort women.   He beautifully found a true voice for both Anna and Ja-hee making the reader feel as if they are the character.

His initial motivation stemmed from his daughter who he adopted from Korea.  He superbly interviewed former comfort women and is committed to telling their story as they weekly protest in Korea outside the Japanese Embassy requesting acknowledgment of the atrocity and an apology.

Daughters of the Dragon won the IPPY (Independent Publishers Book Award) in the historical fiction genre for 2014.  He also won the Mayhaven Award for his novel, The Essential Truth.

Daughters of the Dragon is a story about humanity educating readers in an effort to never allow history to repeat itself.   In every war there are numerous perspectives which we have no idea of how they were involved with a conflict and to understand point-of-view.   All of these are needed to truly understand any war.

One of the best written, enticing, intriguing novels I have ever read is Daughters of the Dragon.

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