SOCIAL SCIENCES

My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth

Rosetta. May 2016. 312p. photos. ISBN 9780795347047. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780795347221. TRAV
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Photographer, blogger, and world traveler Simmons has chronicled her ten-day journey through North Korea in a book that is an irresistible read. With Alice in Wonderland-like comments on the surreal experience, she guides readers through a country that is as bizarre as we might imagine. Handlers schedule Simmons down to the minute and batter her with lectures on American imperialism and Korean superiority. The deceased revered Great Leaders are still running the country from their mausoleum but have come up short on providing electricity and toilet paper to the citizens. Factories and sports arenas are empty until the group stops by, and then orderly crowds of North Koreans rush in. Rainy days are declared sunny and nice. As world leaders in technology, the people of this region possess many boom boxes, a bootleg Madonna CD, and a startling number of accordions. The handlers are caught in the dilemma of indoctrinating the visitor yet hearing about the outside world and perhaps questioning their own.
VERDICT Simmons presents a rare and fascinating look at the tourist's North Korea in a work that is humorous, appalling, and very sad. A highly recommended and revealing glimpse into a secretive land.

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