Book review: The Island of Sea Women — by Lisa See

(Scribner Book Company)
On Jeju, a beautiful volcanic island in South Korea, women work the dry fields and the wet fields; they farm the land and they dive in the sea for food and commerce. It is dangerous physical work, performed only by the haenyeo, women divers, with methods and traditions are passed down from generation to generation. Young-sook, first daughter of the lead diver, and Mi-ja, disgraced daughter of a Japanese collaborator, already best friends, are both taught to dive by Young-sook’s mother, and their bond grows stronger, they are as sisters. They grow up, dive in international waters, put the men in their families through school, marry, and still remain close. But as the book opens in near current day, Young-sook denies even knowing Mi-ja when her descendants arrive on Jeju for inquiries. What happened during those intervening years, when the island is beset by the worst outcomes of politics and war, when horrific mass murders, covered up by the South Korean government, decimated the population of this small island? What happened to break the seemingly unbreakable bonds between the two women, forged by similar passions? Read this for the incredible depictions of the women divers, love it for the depictions of these strong women. Lisa See illuminates a world few are familiar with, and it is moving and memorable.
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
9 works of Asian American fiction
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
Severance, by Ling Ma
Harmless Like You, by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Everything Here Is Beautiful, by Mira T. Lee
The Court Dancer, by Kyung Sook-Shin
If You Leave Me, by Crystal Hana Kim
Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories, by May-Lee Chai
The Incendiaries, by R.O.Kwon

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