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So Far from the Bamboo Grove
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So Far from the Bamboo Grove (Paperback)
by Yoko Kawashawa Watkins
(148 customer reviews)    
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Number of Reviews: 148
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80 of 95 people found the following review helpful:

So much for bamboo, January 16, 2007
Reviewer:Soojin Kim (Charlotte, NC) - See all my reviews
First things first, bamboo does not grow in the North Korea.

Beginning from the Title to the pathetic end, this book is just full of lies and junks, except for some scenes of sex and violence thrown in for spice.

As many people have indicated already, Korean Communist Army was established at 1948, 3 years after the surrender of the Japan.

And there is no record of US bombing Northern part of Korean peninsula (Where Yoko putatively ran away from bombing) during WWII. The Korean peninsula was not so important strategically (at least during WWII), and hard to reach. Even with B-29, it would have been impossible to reach Yoko's home from their Pacific island bases.

The book glossed over the fact that the author's father was a convicted war criminal. - A note to NeoNazi party, if you want any recruit dumb enough to believe you, find them among the readers who liked this book.

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71 of 84 people found the following review helpful:

All lies and unstrustworthy facts that fooled All American Middleschoolers., January 16, 2007
Reviewer:Je Won Hong "The Athlan" (Hebron, ME) - See all my reviews
There are so many 'not-true' facts in this book, and I don't understand how this book got an award.

Let me tell you what is not true in this book.

1. She says Korea was bombed while she was escaping from the North Korean territory, which would be 1945. But you know what?? Sorry but Korea was not even in WW2 area. B-29 bomber didn't even reach Korean Peninsula.

2. She was chased by Korean Communist Army? In 1945? Do you even know when Korean Communist Army was formed? It was in 1948! 1945 was when Korea finally got an independence from Japan, which invaded Korea and occupied it illegaly for over several decades! Did you even know that Yoko's father was the WW2 war criminal? She skips everything about it.

3. So far from the bamboo grove? Do you know how much it should be warm for bamboo to grow? North part of Korea is too cold for bamboo to be grown up, and there were no bamboos at all even in South Korea. Now you can only see the bamboo grove in the southern part of South Korea. I have no idea from where this author saw the bamboo grove.

This book has been refused to be published in Japan, and is prohibited in China. If one should represent the book telling the story of the true war story, then the facts should be absolute true, first. Already in some areas in the U.S., some middle schoolers who read this book set themselves against Korean students and supported Japanese people. Just remember the Pearl Harbor. Japanese people are still taught in the biased way about their history. You should be careful if you want to read this book.

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73 of 84 people found the following review helpful:

truly emotional and badly fabricated story, January 16, 2007
Reviewer:J. Lee "ROKA Sergeant" (Denver, CO USA) - See all my reviews
'Escaping from Korea' actually never happened. Because even after Japan gave up the war, Korea was still under Japanese military's rule. Japanese people actually 'walked' out of Korea very peacefully with the protection of Japanese force while so many Koreans were being killed for celebrating the defeat of Japan and liberalization of Korea. Simply, this story cannot be true and is not true. She just wanted to show you how bad the Koreans were and how pitiful the Japanese were.

Plus, she used 'Korean communist army' in her book, but Korean communist army didn't even exist until 1948. It's three years after she went home. I don't know how this book is 'recommended' by so many people, but I am trying to understand because they don't know the facts at all.

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56 of 66 people found the following review helpful:

War criminers want to bury their past deep, if not distort., January 16, 2007
Reviewer:sonus hisom (u.s.) - See all my reviews
Japanese killed raped, tortured, and exploited millions of Koreans (as well as other Asians) during its imperial regimes. They buried people alive, burned alive, drafted abroad and forced to work until they died of hunger and disease. If this is not enough, they experimented on live human bodies. And also kidnapped young girls and put them in military sex salve camp. The girls forced to be used as sex toys until they killed themselves or got mad.
And this book is describing Japanese as victims and Korean as victimizers. It's like a daughter of Nazi soldier blames Jewish people as her victimizer.
Besides many part of the story cannot even be true historically.
Japanese do not educated its past grotesque bloody thirty history its new generations. This book is just one of the results of Japanese systematic, intentional lie on their past that they always want to bury deep.

Certainly this is not the book for people who love thuth.

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17 of 66 people found the following review helpful:

"When My NameWas Keoko", January 16, 2007
Reviewer:Sijo Park "East Sea" (Portage, MI USA) - See all my reviews
"A man raped a woman repeatedly over the past 35 years and he was eventually killed by the woman, once he turned into weak and ill--Is she really guilty or just innocent....?" I bet I would be happy to kill the man before he is naturally dead.

This has been the relationhips between the ugly & disgusting Japanese Colonialism/Imperialism and the fragile/stupid Korean Nationalism ever since the 19th century. Sure, as a Korean, I am deadly proud of my grandparents' generation even though once they lost their freedom and everything under the brutal & disturbing Japanese Imperialism!!!

The European, American, and Japanese Imperialism truly sucks!

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82 of 94 people found the following review helpful:

Read with caution..., January 12, 2007
Reviewer:A reader (Philadelphia, USA) - See all my reviews
First, I find the parallels between this book to Holocaust survival stories such as Aranka Siegal's Upon the Head of the Goat (Farrar, 1981) and Esther Hautzig's The Endless Steppe (Crowell, 1968) amusing in its paradoxicality. A better parallel perhaps can be drawn to a story of a daughter of an SS officer stationed in Auschwitz-Birkenau fleeing Poland. I chose Auschwitz because Yoko's father is a high-level official stationed in Manchuria, the location of the infamous Camp Ishii(Unit 731) where 'maruta'(literal translation of 'log' in Japanese) are subjected to bio-warfare experiments. Marutas are composed of POWs, Chinese and Koreans civilians captured in the wrong place and time.

Second, The book is not racist per se, but in the absence of contexts and considering that this is a FICTIONALIZED autobiography, Ms. Watkins at the very least is grossly insensitive in her depictions of the Korean people.

Third, Sixth graders and I dare say most North-Americans are not equipped with the contexts and backgrounds to put Yoko's experience in perspective. Japan's multiple invasions of Korea span for centuries. If you visit Kyoto, you'll be able to find Mimizuka, the tomb of nose and ears, the final resting place of hundreds of thousands Koreans' noses and ears collected by Japanese warriors during their two invasions of Korea in the end of 16th century. (The count is actually at 38,000, but only a fraction was recorded)

Last, I'd like to share several backgrounds/facts that perhaps will help understand Yoko's experience better.
1. Japan forcibly colonialized Korea in 1910 until her independence in 1945.
2. During the brutal colonialization, Koreans are prohibited to use the Korean language, and are forced to adopt Japanese name. False imprisonments and tortures of Korean citizens are commonplace.
3. Young men (numbering in the hundreds of thousands) are forcibly drafted to support Japan's war efforts on the frontline.
4. Girls (as young as 12 years of age and numbering close to 200,000) are uprooted from their home and family to work as 'sex slaves' to Japanese soldiers. They are often forced to served as many as 30 'guests' a day. That means 6 millions 'organized' rapes against Korean women occured everyday since 1943.(The year the practice started)
5. Holocaust denials are punishable offence in most European countries, and yet popular ultra-nationalist Japanese politicians often deny any wrongdoings of Japanese military during WW2 (even those convicted in war crimes tribunal).

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63 of 75 people found the following review helpful:

Critical thinking is required when reading this book, January 11, 2007
Reviewer:A Reader (Philadelphia) - See all my reviews
Critical thinking is required when reading this book, October 23, 1997
Reviewer: A reader
No conventional rating should apply to this book, but the book is certainly worthy of comments.

"So Far from the Bamboo Grove", published in 1986, is the Japanese-American author's retelling of the harrowing experiences of her escape as a child from Korea at the end of World War II. The eleven year-old child was driven from her delightful life and home in northern Korea. The events of the story ring true as the author spins her tale of war-induced woe; the book reaffirms that WAR IS HELL.

The alert reader of these comments will immediately take note of the characterization of an "escape" of a Japanese from Korea in 1945, and the reading of this book should provide a basic exercise on critical thinking. For every reader, the question that begs to be asked should be, "Why was her family in northern Korea?" or, more pointedly, "What did her father do?" It turns out that her father was an important Japanese government official who was "working" in nearby Manchuria. The publisher at the end of the book notes that the father eventually returned to Japan after serving six years in a Siberian prison.

So the author's father was a World War II war criminal, and the family's home in northern Korea was the result of an imperialist's occupation. No wonder the patriotic Koreans were not too eager to provide the author's family a safe and comfortable passage out of their country!

Now, isn't it remarkable that this book exists? The author has had decades to reflect on her experiences and proves incapable of viewing them in the larger historical context. Political correctness is not the issue here; this book demonstrates an egregious omission of a righteous moral stand.

Furthermore, doesn't the uncritical manner of the presentation of this book cause one to ponder the role of racism? The publisher makes a tepid attempt to include some notes on Korean history that only serve to further obfuscate the historical significance of this story. The book's forward and the blurbs uniformly praise the book without exercising critical thinking. The suggestion of racism should not be made lightly, but would it be possible to publish a book retelling the travails of a young girl from a Nazi German family "escaping" from Holland at the end of the Second World War?

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42 of 60 people found the following review helpful:

Biased history; raises some interesting questions, January 11, 2007
Reviewer:J. Chung - See all my reviews
Oh no, those evil Koreans! Just because we invaded their country, slaughtered their citizens by the thousands, censored their language and culture, forced their women to serve as sex slaves, and STARTED THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC, they want to kill us, a hapless, innocent Japanese family just doing our job--invading Manchuria!? Never mind that we are forcibly adding our neighbors into our Empire; the fact that these angry natives are trying to kill us, for WHATEVER REASON, makes us pitiable! Why can't they show some hospitality toward their fleeing invaders?

Sadly, the author's interpretation of the historical setting of her story is heavily skewed. So then, why WOULD the Koreans be so mean to this Japanese family? As a young refuge, it is not entirely unreasonable that the author would see things this way; but as an adult writer her bias become irresponsible. Enjoy the thrilling account of her journey but take the surrounding history with a grain of salt because it's a fanciful one that SHE would like to believe.

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56 of 76 people found the following review helpful:

Revisionist History, January 3, 2007
Reviewer:Antibigot "Enough is enough" (Wellesley, Ma) - See all my reviews
The book is supposed to be historical fiction but the author claims it is all true. There are many historical inaccuracies and the book is very biased towards the Japanese. A more interesting book is the one still to be written that uncovers the true activities of her father during the war.

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36 of 55 people found the following review helpful:

Just wondering, November 14, 2006
Reviewer:Jp "The Real Deal" (Honolulu) - See all my reviews
If anyone realizes that if Koreans in North Korea at the time before the Russians came that if you were Korean in North Korea that you needed to speak Japanese or you would be extremely Punished.

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