Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

In Nothing to Envy, Barbara Demick has compiled the stories of six defectors into an extraordinary glimpse of normal life in North Korea.  Through detailed, extensive interviews, Demick reveals the harsh realities of daily life for these ordinary citizens, all of whom are originally from Chongjin, North Korea's third largest city.  Covering several decades but focusing mainly on the harrowing, deadly famine of the 1990s and its aftermath, Nothing to Envy is a sobering, fascinating exposé of the harsh reality of life under North Korea's totalitarian government.

“North Korean defectors often find it hard to settle down.  It is not easy for somebody who’s escaped a totalitarian country to live in the free world.  Defectors have to rediscover who they are in a world that offers endless possibilities.  Choosing where to live, what to do, even which clothes to put on in the morning is tough enough for those of us accustomed to making choices; it can be utterly paralyzing for people who’ve had decisions made for them by the state their entire lives.”

Barbara Demick is an American journalist and current Beijing bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times.  She is the author of Nothing to Envy and Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood.  

Published:  2009
Length:  294 pages
Set in:  North Korea