“On that visit to my ancestors’ graves, it occurred to me that tradition is not well suited for globalization. Traditions are about holding onto the past, whereas I belong in a new world, and in my new world of America, one reinvents oneself constantly, which is a certain kind of privilege.”
Without You, There Is No Us, p. 51
By Suki Kim
I am far further into Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim than I typically find myself in a book when pausing to write a “currently reading.” This is the final of the three memoirs that I had planned to read, and after the indulgences of My Salinger Year and Not That Kind of Girl, I was eager to read a book offering heavier things. Kim is originally from Seoul and living in New York when she pursues a teaching position at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea, a school strangely funded by donations from evangelical churches worldwide. PUST is a school attended only by the sons of North Korea’s most privileged and elite. Kim spends six months not only teaching English at PUST, but also secretly taking notes for what will become this memoir. “Without You, There Is No Us” is in reference to one of North Korea’s many military-style songs, with “you” referring to Kim Jong-il.