PLOT: 4/5 CHARACTERS: 4/5 WRITING STYLE: 4/5 OVERALL: 4/5 GENRE: Contemporary Fiction
“Jiyoung grew up being told to be cautious, to dress conservatively, to be “ladylike.” That it’s your job to avoid dangerous places, times of day and people. It’s your fault for not noticing and not avoiding.”
– Cho Nam-Joo, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
Summary of Kim Jiyoung Born 1982
Set in South Korea, this book follows the story of a 33-year-old Jiyoung who lives a very ordinary life with her husband and toddler on the outskirts of Seoul. She has recently left her job so that she can take care of her daughter. But soon her husband notices some strange symptoms in Jiyoung. She starts impersonating the voices of different women- old acquaintances, classmates -some living, some dead, and other women whom she has met before. No matter how you look at it, it doesn’t seem like a joke. She truly, and flawlessly becomes that person as if she’s possessed. As the story progresses, we get to know what chain of events lead to such drastic changes in Jiyoung.
Starting with a very unusual premise, this book deals with the themes of gender discrimination, sexism, and patriarchy in the Korean society.
An honest, frustrating, and important read – that is how I would sum up Kim Jiyoung’s story.
Cho Nam-Joo captures the plight of women in contemporary society with utmost brilliance. It portrays the story of a girl who –
– was born in a family where the in-laws wanted a boy.
– faced sexual harassment and was blamed for it.
– was overlooked for promotions in the workplace because “women can’t lead teams because of marriage, maternity leaves, and kids.”
– was supposed to leave everything behind and start a family.
Sounds familiar, right? While reading this book, I was quite shocked and furious because the way women are treated in the Korean society is very similar to how women are treated here in India.
As the story progresses, Jiyoung starts losing her individual identity and becomes a non-entity, just a mere ‘someone in the crowd’. The interesting part of the story is just how ordinary Jiyoung is. Even her name is one of the most common names for Korean girls. She is just another faceless woman whose existence revolves around her family.
Narrated from the perspective of Jiyoung’s psychiatrist, this book follows the story of Jiyoung’s birth, teenage, adulthood, and marriage. The writing style is a mixture of facts and fiction. The author adds lots of facts/survey results to support her opinion, and to bring credibility to the issues that she highlights.
As for the plot, there isn’t a ‘single big event’ that shapes the story. This book is made up of moments, just moments, and how they affect someone. For example – how in cases of sexual assault a woman is blamed, how common female foeticide was a few decades back, and how no one pays heed to the sexism women face each day. And if someone decides to become a stay-at-home wife, their work seldom gets acknowledged.
Though it felt like a rant at times, and one might even say that the book has a biased outlook towards society. Some might question how there wasn’t a single male figure in Jiyoung’s life who understood her agony and supported her? But that’s how society is sometimes.
This is really powerful and thought-provoking book. I feel every woman can find something relatable in this story. Well, this book is going to give you a perspective no matter what your gender is. Read it and you’ll understand why?
In the end, I’d say it’s a book that should be read and discussed with utmost urgency.
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