Tuesday News: The Accusation, Marvel & diversity, Amina’s Voice, and the women of Big Little Lies
A Dissident Book Smuggled From North Korea Finds a Global Audience – Fascinating chronicle of how Bandi’s The Accusation has managed to get published around the world, while the anonymous author remains in North Korea, as yet undiscovered by government authorities. The 743-page, handwritten manuscript was smuggled out of North Korea by a relative of Bandi’s a woman who was caught in China and brought to South Korea by human rights activists who were able to bribe the authorities for her release. One of the things that is so exceptional about the book – apart from the fact that the author continues to remain in North Korea – is that it portrays average North Korean life. Its champion, Do Hee-youn, has both verified the manuscript and spearheaded its publication, which now extends to 18 languages and 20 countries. Here is an interview with the translator, Deborah Smith, who rendered the book into English.
Bandi was the pen name the writer chose for himself, Mr. Do said. In one of 50 poems smuggled out with the manuscript of “The Accusation” and to be published separately, Bandi explained his alias. Bandi, he wrote in a poem, was “fated to shine only in a world of darkness.”
In the book, North Korea is a country where a woman is programmed to show grief over Kim Il-sung’s death with flowers, streaming tears and a heart-rending cry of “Great Leader, Father!” — even as her husband is languishing at a political prisoners’ camp.
In one story, “So Near, Yet So Far,” a son is unable to see his dying mother because he lacks the requisite travel permit. He compares himself to “a dragonfly stuck in a spider web.”
“Ultimately, this is a textbook on the human rights condition in North Korea,” Mr. Do said. “What it does is to show that in North Korea, ordinary life itself is slavery.” – New York Times
Marvel Exec Backpedals After Suggesting Diversity to Blame for Comic Book Sales Slump – So David Gabriel, Marvel’s senior vice president of print, sales, and marketing, gave a mixed message when asked about a recent slump in Marvel’s sales. What’s the first thing Gabriel targets? Diversity, of course! Then, asked to clarify his comments, he insisted that the new characters are not being abandoned, and, in fact, are popular. There is so much that is frustrating about these comments, and while it’s good that Gabriel ultimately stood behind diversification (aka reflecting the world as it actually is!), it’s precisely these anecdotally based assumptions about what consumers want that help sustain the status quo.
“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” Gabriel told iCv2 after being asked what contributed to changes in customer tastes that led to a drop in sales in October-November. “They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.” . . .
“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more!” he continued. “They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it. So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.” – Variety
A Pre-Teen Takes On Middle School and Islamophobia in New Book ‘Amina’s Voice’ – And speaking of breaking through the status quo, Hena Kahn’s new middle-grade novel, Amina’s Voice, featuring a strong, sixth-grade heroine. Kahn has written children’s books before, but this is her first middle-grade book, and the first for Simon and Schuster’s new line, Salaam Reads, which focuses on Muslim children’s literature.
While Khan has written Muslim-themed children’s books before — including the picture book “It’s Ramadan, Curious George” — “Amina’s Voice” is her first geared toward middle schoolers. A mother of two, Khan noted how hard it can be to find books with strong Muslim characters for children.
“I never saw myself portrayed in the the books I read growing up,” she said, adding that part of the reason she was inspired to create Amina’s story was because parents who had purchased her picture books were asking her for book recommendations that would be appropriate for older readers. – NBC News
Four Questions for…’Big Little Lies’ Author Liane Moriarty – Speaking of strong women, I don’t know how many of you watched HBO’s Big Little Lies, adapted from Liane Moriarty’s book, but if you watched the seven-episode series, co-produced by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, you may be interested in this interview with Moriarty about the adaptation. For those of you who did not see the series, I think it was an outstanding program, independent of the original book, and the way Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard handled the domestic violence storyline was harrowing and horrifying and stunningly human, and I’m still thinking about the finale, days later. I’m not sure if it’s the number of women involved in the production, but the way the series let the complexities of these characters and relationships play out without in any way excusing or justifying abuse, or bullying, or just plain shitty behavior, was very powerful. Skarsgard has talked articulately about that, too, as has Lainey at Lainey Gossip.
One of the most unsettling aspects of the show, arguably, is its portrayal of domestic violence. Does the show’s depiction of domestic violence differ much from what’s in the novel?
When I first spoke to Nicole Kidman about the series and she said she wanted to play Celeste, I said it was very important to me that her character doesn’t just take the abuse, she hits back. That was my only stipulation. I didn’t want her to be a passive, pretty victim. I wanted to show how these relationships become tangled and confused, how if you defend yourself you start to feel complicit in the violence and how it’s possible to still be deeply in love with your abuser, even as part of you knows you need to leave. When I was writing the book, I worked hard on conveying the cycles of abuse—the violence followed by the abject apologies. I think David E. Kelley did an incredible job translating that to the screen, and I couldn’t be happier with the way Kidman played Celeste. All that complexity of emotion plays out on her face. It was amazing to watch. – Publishers Weekly