A half circle journey – Suki Kim and North Korea

Cover of Without you, there is no usThere are only patchy representations of North Korea in our popular culture – comedians dressed up as Kim Jong-il, Team America, that recent Interview movie. In a world where the Iron Curtain has come down, it is still Unknown. But Suki Kim knows North Korea, she’s been there many times. Suki is coming to Christchurch on Sunday 30 August as part of the WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View events in the Christchurch Arts Festival. Her topic: On North Korea: Inventing the Truth and she’s in conversation with Paula Morris.

Her book Without you, there is no us: My time with the sons of North Korea’s Elite. A Memoir unveils what has been hidden. It starts with the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011 and then goes back into history, and into Suki’s time as a teacher at PUST- the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

If this were the sort of story that invites readers to nod with empathy and walk away both satisfied and educated, I would say that I travelled full circle. But in truth my journey was barely half a circle, a sad one that could never be completed, because those who were at the center of the harrowing history are almost certainly long dead, or old and dying, and time is running out before their stories are lost in the dust of the past. (p. 11)

Suki shows us Pyongyang as a place of rules, bureaucracy, and regimentation. North Korea is full of constraints  – and the constriction is political, emotional, and intellectual. On some of their school trips, there are glimpses of starving people, and forced labour. It is a place where even the sons of the elite have an existence that is controlled, and devoid of freedom.  Everyone is watched, you are likely to be spied upon, and the very words you utter must conform or you might be reported. Suki wants to open the world up to her students, but knows she can’t:

It was a fine dance. I wanted to push them, but not too much; to expose them to the outside world, but not so subtly that no one would notice… Awakening my students to what was not in the regime’s program could mean death for them and those they loved … Awakening was a luxury available only to those in the free world. (p. 70)

Suki teaches, but she is continually taking notes for her book. She observes her students open up,  and how some lie and deceive.  I was swayed by her emotional currents:

And so I went from love to pity to repulsion and distrust, then back to empathy and love again, and these switches of feeling were confusing. I reminded myself that I did not come from a place where mind games were a prerequisite for survival to such an extreme degree, a place where the slightest act of rebellion could have unimaginable consequences. (p. 134)

This is a book that could easily be claustrophic. But it isn’t, because she provides such captivating views of the Koreas North and South, and family history, and her own emotional landscape. Her book will make you understand North Korea in a new way.

Cover of PyongyangIf you want to read more about this strange and fascinating place, I recommend the graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle. It captures that same alienness and constriction found in Suki’s story.

There seems to be a flurry of new books about North Korea. We want to understand.

Cover of The firector is the commander Cover of The girl with seven names Cover of The Great Leader and the fighter pilot Cover of Marching through suffering Cover of Under the same sky Cover of Dear Leader

Te Reo Māori, ake, ake, ake

As Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori draws to a close we can all stop using our newly learned kupu and vastly improved pronunciation until next year, right?

KAO. (That’s a big NO, just in case you were wondering)

You can use te reo Māori and embrace the arts and culture of indigenous New Zealanders any time. And in Christchurch we’ve got some great opportunities coming up to do just that so let’s keep the poro rolling with –

Te Kupu o Te Wiki

Every Monday on this blog there’ll be a kupu hou (new word) to add to your vocabulary, complete with a link where you can listen online so no worries about not getting your pronunciation tino tika.

E Hoa

Māori art vector prints by Dallas Matoe and Lino cuts by George Aranui, until 15 August at Linwood Community Arts Centre/Eastside Gallery.

New Zealand International Film Festival logoEver the land

NZIFF documentary about the planning and building of New Zealand’s first “living building”, Te Wharehou o Tūhoe. This is no Grand Designs, it’s much more than that. Session on 15 & 16 August.

Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts 2015

This year’s expression of ‘Ngā Whanaunga’ – which means relatedness and connectedness between peoples – is realised with films from Aotearoa, Hawaii, Samoa and Tuvalu. Session on 19 & 23 August.

The Price of Peace

Investigative journalist Kim Webby’s documentary about Tūhoe activist Tame Iti and the Urewera Four. A portrait of a man and his “rightly embittered philosophy”. Session on 10 & 11 August.

Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses

Documentary about the tragic death of Janet Moses in 2007 as the result of a mākutu lifting by her family. Session on 17 & 18 August.

Modern Māori Quartet

These guys are the business. Don’t believe me? Check out their te reo version of Lorde’s Royals and then tell me one of their shows wouldn’t be a great night out.

Tickets for their 10 & 11 September gigs are selling fast so kia tere!

Christchurch Arts Festival logoNgā Tai o Kurawaka: He Kura e Huna Ana

He Kure e Huna Ana is a Pounamu creation story of Poutini and Waitaki but one which develops with the help of the audience. At the Court Theatre 8-10 September.

Rama Tuna

Priscilla Cowie (Ngai Tahu, Ngati Kahu, Nga Puhi, Ngati Pakeha) presents a new sculptural installation honouring the tuna or long finned eel. View it between 28 August and 13 September at The Arts Centre Market Square.

Quick questions with Margaret Wilson

Cover of The Struggle for SovereigntyMargaret Wilson is coming to Christchurch on Sunday 30 August to speak on The Struggle for Sovererignty. This event is part of the Shifting Points of View – WORD Christchurch at the Christchurch Arts Festival.  Margaret is Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Waikato, and she has been an MP and Speaker of Parliament. She will be in conversation with Dr Bronwyn Hayward, author and political scientist at the University of Canterbury.

This session is timely and relevant:

In the era of public choice and free markets, and when widespread public protest against global treaties such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is having little effect, does the New Zealand state still have the best interests of its individual citizens at heart? Margaret Wilson argues that the shift to a neo-liberal public policy framework has profoundly affected the country’s sovereignty and that New Zealanders must continue to engage in the struggle to retain it for the sake of individual and community wellbeing.

Thanks to Margaret for answering our quick questions.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

I’m looking forward to meeting people in Christchurch who share my values.

What do you think about libraries?

Libraries are essential for a democratic community – they provide pleasure, knowledge and well being for a community. (My sister is a librarian!)

What would be your “desert island book”?

I would take the bible and the Koran to try understand why religion is so important to so many people.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

If I had the time and money I would tour the world watching cricket.

Quick questions with Anna Smaill

Cover of The ChimesAnna Smaill, author of the wonderful moody and musical dystopian novel The Chimes, is coming to Christchurch.

She is speaking on the panel Imaginary Cities as part of WORD Shifting Points of view in the Christchurch Arts Festival.

Thanks to Anna for answering our quick questions.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

Both my parents grew up in Christchurch, so we often came down for family holidays and I have many childhood memories of the city, as well as more recent ones from the two years I spent there as a student. However, I haven’t visited properly since the earthquake. What I really want to do is simply walk around for a few hours, visiting and remembering old places, but also taking in the changes and the new landscape and life of the city.

What do you think about libraries?

Libraries are lifeblood! We grew up within walking distance of our local library (Leys Institute in Ponsonby), and for my sister, brother and me it was variously a source of entertainment, education, after-school care and, finally, employment (we each worked there as shelvers then library assistants).

I always feel happy in libraries. They seem like places of equality and wondrous possibility – built around this essential humanist ideal that everyone deserves access to knowledge and literature. Now I take my daughter to Newtown Library in Wellington, and to Wellington Central, and it’s great to feel that connection starting up again.

What would be your “desert island book”?

Cover of War and PeaceAh, that’s a hard one. I’m tempted to echo the very astute Helen Macdonald and cover all bases by opting for The Complete Works of Shakespeare. But I do think I’d miss the texture and immersion of fiction. So, I’m going to take War and Peace, because it has the broadest emotional scope of anything I’ve ever read, and because its great length means I’m less likely to be driven mad by repetition before I’m rescued.

Share a surprising fact about yourself

Most of my bio notes point out that I trained as a violinist, but I don’t usually mention my brief but thrilling tenure as a trombonist in my school jazz band. I really miss the trombone – what an instrument it is! Such swagger and sensitivity! I often daydream about taking it up again.

More Quick questions with WORD Christchurch guests.

Shifting points of view – WORD Christchurch 30 August and 7 September 2015

Shifting points of view gives you a bumper crop of sessions  from top writers and commentators. It’s WORD Christchurch’s part of the Christchurch Arts Festival and is guaranteed to warm the cockles of your enquiring mind.

There are five sessions on Sunday 30 August – it’s practically a mini-bookfest. Patricia Grace, Anna Smaill, Paula Morris, and Fiona Farrell are among the Kiwi writers on show, and also international writers Jesse Bering (talking about perversion, no less) and Suki Kim about North Korea. And on Monday 7 September there are two evening sessions – one on altruism, and one with novelist Sarah Waters – author of The Paying Guest and Tipping the Velvet. Blimey.

WORD authors WORD Christchurch authors WORD Christchurch authors

Our approach is to show off what’s on offer, but also to link to our catalogue so you can get reading. And book your tickets, because things do sell out! You can either pay $20 per session or buy a $115 Shifting Points of View pass, on sale NOW.

Here’s the programme in full:

Sunday 30 August

Cover of Chappy10am On Belonging: Patricia Grace and Paula Morris

…  Patricia Grace explores issues that permeate New Zealand history and society: racial intolerance, cross-cultural conflicts and the universal desire to belong. Spanning several decades and set against the backdrop of a changing New Zealand, Chappy is a story of enduring love. She discusses her work with Paula Morris, whose On Coming Home explores similar themes of nostalgia, memory and belonging …

Find works in our catalogue by:

Cover of The Villa at the edge of the empire12pm Imaginary Cities: Fiona Farrell, Anna Smaill, Hamish Clayton, Hugh Nicholson, chaired by Lara Strongman

Taking the Christchurch blueprint as a starting point, this panel will look at ways in which we imagine cities, either in fiction, in history, or in contemporary life; whether as utopias or dystopias, cities imagined or reimagined.

Find works in our catalogue by:

Cover of The Struggle for sovereignty2pm The Struggle for Sovereignty: Margaret Wilson

Margaret Wilson argues that the shift to a neo-liberal public policy framework has profoundly affected the country’s sovereignty and that New Zealanders must continue to engage in the struggle to retain it for the sake of individual and community wellbeing.

Find works in our catalogue by Margaret Wilson

Cover of Without you, there is no us4pm On North Korea: Inventing the Truth: Suki Kim, chaired by Paula Morris

A glimpse inside the mysterious closed-off world of North Korea, a country where a military dictatorship exploits the myth of a Great Leader to its own citizens, who are “imprisoned in a gulag posing as a nation”.

Find works in our catalogue by Suki Kim.

Cover of Why is the penis shaped like that?6pm On Perversion: Jesse Bering

Jesse Bering argues that we are all sexual deviants on one level or another. He challenges us to move beyond our attitudes towards ‘deviant’ sex and consider the alternative: what would happen if we rise above our fears and revulsions and accept our true natures? (Adult themes)

Find works in our catalogue by Jess Bering

Monday 7 September

Cover of The most good you can do6pm On Effective Altruism: Peter Singer, chaired by Eric Crampton

Effective altruism requires a rigorously unsentimental view of charitable giving, urging that a substantial proportion of our money or time should be donated to the organisations that will do the most good with those resources …

Find works in our catalogue by Peter Singer

8pm Crimes of Passion: Sarah Waters, chaired by Carole Beu

Sarah Waters’ hugely inventive novels usually have lesbian relationships at their heart, and are always set in the past, when remaining true to oneself came at great personal risk.

Find works in our catalogue by Sarah Waters

Cover of The Paying Guest Cover of Fingersmith Cover of The Little Stranger Cover of Tipping the velvet

Celebrate Matariki – and win an eReader!

Ko tēnei te wā o Matariki tāpuapua. It is the time of Matariki. Rāpare (Thursday) 18 Pipiri (June) 2015 is the start of the Māori New Year. Join the Christchurch celebrations at the Botanic Gardens on Sunday 21 June, and at Rehua Marae on Saturday 27 June.

Tell us in the comments what Matariki means to you, and then you are in the draw to win a Kobo Glo eReader! You can use your prize to enjoy our collection of eBooks and eMagazines.

Matariki

Terms and conditions

  • You must be a member of Christchurch City Libraries to be eligible to win an eReader.
  • The competition is not open to staff of Christchurch City Libraries or their immediate families.
  • The competition closes Sunday 5pm 21 June 2015.
  • The judges’ decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into and prizes are not transferable.
  • Winners will be contacted by Sunday 28 June 2015.
  • If you are a winner, you consent to your name, photograph, entry and/or interview being used for reasonable publicity purposes by Christchurch City Libraries.

Festival made accessible

Catalogue search for Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami in audiobook formatAbout now you may be wondering what happened to your good intentions of reading all those interesting books by those fascinating authors you heard about at WORD Christchurch or missed out on hearing at Auckland Writers Festival. Never fear, a solution is near!

Listen to your festival favourites

You may have not enough hours in the day to sit by the fire and read your fill of festival authors but help is at hand. You need not miss out on this year’s Auckland festival headliner Haruki Murakami. Try listening to his work in an audiobook. We have him available in downloadable audiobook from Overdrive and on CD.

Catalogue search for Hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world by Haruki Murakami i n audiobook formatFill in your spare moments on the bus or in the car, or while you vacuum the house, rake the leaves or paint the fence, or while exercising the dog or yourself by listening to an audiobook. If you have had a particularly tiring day and find you’re too tired to read, rather than turning on the television, snuggle up in a chair with an audiobook and soon you will be relaxed. Having trouble sleeping? My mother swears by lulling English voices as a sure-fire cure for insomnia.

Often audiobooks and large print titles have no reserve list so while others are waiting for a print edition, get ahead of the crowd. Better still, even if there is a wait list downloadable audiobooks on Overdrive do not have a reserve charge.

Catalogue search for H is for Hawke by Helen MacDonald in audiobook formatOverdrive is one of our suppliers of audiobooks and ebooks. You can find all their titles in our catalogue.

As well as Murakami, you might also try Booker Prize-winning novelist Ben Okri whose novel The Age of Magic has been newly released and is available on CD. Sometimes the CD format can be limiting as it requires you to be stationary. Happily we have Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk as an ISIS audiobook that is a clever format which you can download to your laptop and transfer to your MP3 player, freeing you up to listen to it anywhere.

The thousand autumns of Joseph de Zoet in audiobook formatA standout from Word Christchurch was the charming David Mitchell. Your ears can ring with the sounds and atmosphere of old Japan listening to his exotic enthralling tale The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet on CD.

 

 

Large print – easy to read!

If reading is difficult at night when the light is bad, or because you struggle with print at the end of a tiring day spent staring at a computer screen, large print may be the answer! Why not try David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green or The Thousand Autumn’s of Joseph de Zoet or Xinran’s touching Miss Chopsticks.

Walliams in audio and large print formats

Book cover for Demon Dentist by David Walliams in Playaway formatNothing like a bedtime story so why not borrow one of our children’s titles by the hit author David Walliams in an audiobook format to lull your darlings to sleep? We have audiobooks on CD, preloaded mp3 players, and downloadable audiobooks for your enjoyment.

If you have a child who is yet to find their stride with reading a wonderful way to introduce the love of books is by reading along to an audiobook so why not borrow the book and the audiobook together? We have Demon Dentist as a Playaway, a preloaded audiobook in its own wee player. All you or your child has to do is press play and you can carry it around with you. Ideal for children who are always on the move.

If small print is an obstacle try these David Walliams titles in large print.

Catalogue search for Mr Stink by David Walliams in large printCatalogue search for Ratburger by David Walliams in large print formatThe boy in the dress by David Walliams in Large Print format

More festival goodies

Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights 2015

The Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights is an annual event of lights, music and fun celebrating the Lyttelton community, Matariki, the Māori New Year and the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

The Festival runs over nine days from 13 to 21 June, and this year boasts two stages active throughout the night, on London Street and at Albion Square. The programme features a parade, masquerade balls, music, waiata, food and wine, live poetry performances, art exhibitions, and, of course, fireworks.

Festival of Lights

Highlights of the 2015 programme of events [4.4 MB PDF] include:

Lyttelton Festival of lightsSaturday 13 June

  • Mask and headgear making workshop at Lyttelton Farmers Market, 10am-1pm
  • Matariki 2015 at Albion Square, 11am-1pm
  • DJ Missy G at the Porthole Bar, 8.30pm
  • Toque guitar duo at Civil and Naval, 9pm

Sunday 14 June

  • Afternoon Jam at the Porthole Bar, 3.30pm

Monday 15 June

  • Astro Dome by Science Alive at Lyttelton Primary School, Voelas Road campus, 4-7pm
  • ¡No Siesta Fiesta! at Freemans Deck, 7pm: Spanish and South American music

Tuesday 16 June

  • Lyttelton Bingo-tini at The Lyttelton Club, 6pm till late: Bingo, Martinis, and prizes galore

Wednesday 17 June

  • A Night with a Future Star at the Porthole Bar, 8pm

Thursday 18 June

  • Children’s stories and craft after dark at Lyttelton Library, 6.30-7.30pm
  • Celebrating Lyttelton Writers at Freemans Dining Room and Bar, 7-8pm
  • Josh Rennie-Hynes at the Porthole Bar, 8pm
  • Graham James at the Wunderbar, 8pm

Friday 19 June – Street Party

  • Lyttelton Soup Kitchen at The Lyttelton Club, 5pm till late
  • “We are a Tribe. We come by land and sea and air, travelling through time and space” parade, 6pm
  • The Lyttelton Port of Christchurch Fireworks display, 7.30pm
  • Visit the beautifully restored church of St Saviour’s at Holy Trinity, 6.30-9pm, including a 20-minute selection of musical pieces performed by The Cathedral Grammar Combined Choir from 8pm
  • Sexy Animals at the Wunderbar, 8.30pm
  • DJ Willie Styles at the Porthole Bar, 10pm
  • Kitchen Collective at Civil and Naval, 10pm-2am

Saturday 20 June

  • A Feast of Strangers at Naval Point Yacht Club (for Lyttelton Harbour Timebank members), 6.30pm
  • Lyttelton Masquerade Ball at The Lyttelton Club, 7pm
  • Labyrinth Masquerade Ball at the Wunderbar, 8.30pm
  • DJ at the Porthole Bar, 8.30pm

Sunday 21 June

  • Mathoms and Art Market at Diamond Harbour Hall, 2-5pm
  • Carmel Courtney Trio at Freemans Deck, 3pm
  • Mid-Winter Swim at Naval Point Yacht Club, 3.30pm
  • Afternoon Jam at the Porthole Bar, 3.30pm
  • Alliance Française Music Festival at the Wunderbar, 6pm
  • Festival Poetry Session @ Lyttelton Coffee Co., 8-10pm

Lyttelton links

The following resources are helpful for Lyttelton visitors and locals:

Lyttelton from Purau, 1852, CCL PhotoCD 4, IMG0079
Lyttelton from Purau, 1852, CCL PhotoCD 4, IMG0079

Previous Lyttelton Festivals of Lights

The 2015 Festival is the eleventh time the Festival has been held. Read our post about the 2014 Festival and our interview with Wendy Everingham about the 2007 Festival of Lights.

Kids’ writing heroes at the Auckland Writers Festival

Did you ever wish to meet your favourite author when you were little? Did you get a chance? What did you say or ask? When I was a keen young reader, all my favourite authors were already dead. Except one.

I was lucky enough to meet her once. She was talking to the teachers in the foyer after the school visit, drinking coffee and smoking her cigarette. I was hiding behind the corner, gathering my courage and waiting for the best moment to come. All I could find at that moment was a small piece of paper. I decided it will do. Finally, I approached the table and asked her for an autograph. Her cold eyes pierced through the smoke between us and straight through me. A torrent of telling-off followed from her mouth. It must have been wrong question or wrong timing. According to her, it was the size of the paper. Only later on I learned she was writing children’s books but did not like children. It took me ten years to re-establish this fractured reader-writer relationship.

I am pretty sure none of the young visitors to Auckland Writers Festival had an experience like that! Children and their parents had a chance to listen and see some of the best authors in the world. Besides some big-name-sessions on Saturday and a family-focused day on Sunday, the school programme featured some great names during the week, including great American YA author Laurie Halse Anderson, a former comedian Natalie Haynes, performing poet Grace Taylor, New Zealand YA author Bernard Beckett, sci-fi YA debut writer Rachael Craw, singer and songwriter Hollie Fullbrook and cartoonist and creator of graphic novels, Ant Sang.

DSC_0073I could not believe my eyes when I stepped into the ASB Theatre on Saturday morning, before the David Walliams session. The place was like an anthill – little excited readers wriggling everywhere! When it was time for questions, their hands shut up in the air and I was afraid a couple of them might jump off the balcony, on which we were seated. After the show the excitement followed in the queue. I have never ever seen so many patient children in my life – some of them were queuing for more than two hours to get their books signed by David. No arguments, no rows, just very excited faces.

An afternoon session with Morris Gleitzman, Australia’s most celebrated writer for children and young adults, followed. On Sunday, after Captain Underpants/Dav Pilkey revealed a few of his drawing tricks, I walked into the foyer of Herald Theatre, where the family Sunday sessions were taking place, and caught an illustrator Raymond McGrath surrounded by a group of children. They were deeply focused on their work, illustrating and drawing monsters. Donovan Bixley, an illustrator and graphic novels author, was signing his books on the other side of the room. I mingled in the crowd to find a few keen young readers, who shared their impressions of the festival and their ideas about books.

PICT0020 PICT0019

Donovan Bixley, top, and Raymond McGrath, bottom, working their magic with the little ones at Auckland Writers Festival.

First, I talked to a very young lady, Ava, who at the age of six already knows a true value of poetry as she came to listen to Jenny Palmer present her A Little ABC book. Jenny’s session was not the only one Ava attended. Donovan Bixley was pretty entertaining, talking about Young Jimmy, the hero of his comic hit Monkey Boy, and Zak Waipara presented his work on Maori myths. Ava was not shy about sharing what she is reading to her mummy at the moment: The brave kitten (Holly Webb) and How to train your dragon (Cressida Cowell). She usually gets books from her favourite Waiheke Library, which I visited next day and decided with no doubt it’s my favourite as well.

Sitting in the corner and reading a graphic novel was Kea. He is a quiet one, but there is something smart about his face. He tells me his favourite books are – I should have guessed – graphic novels, because “they’re cool” – I should have guessed that as well! He has seen quite a few authors during the festival, but his favourite is – you have probably guessed – Donovan Bixley. I wonder what he would be writing about, if he would be a famous author. With no hesitation, he answers: “Action stories, with lots of heroes!”

I catch Cooper and Ruby just before they whiz back in the theatre to see Trish Gribben and Judy Millar present their pop-up book Swell. After seeing David Walliams, Dav Pilkey, Morris Gleitzman, Jenny Palmer, Zak Waipara and Donovan Bixley, they both agree that David Walliams was the funniest and Dav Pilkey was exciting because he draw pictures and talked about his early childhood. Cooper found Zak’s session very interesting because it was all about Māori myths. If he was a famous author, Cooper’s stories would be full of action, ghosts and pirates. Ruby would write funny stories, like Roald Dahl or David Walliams.

Our time is up and I let children return to the next session. While I’m leaving the foyer, I ponder who of them would be my favourite writer. I decide it would probably be Ruby. And I am absolutely sure, she would not tell me off, if I asked her for an autograph.

Samoan Language Week 2015

Tālofa. Samoan Language Week 2015 will take place from 24 to 30 May. Here at Christchurch City Libraries we are celebrating with several events.

Events at our libraries

Samoan Language WeekStorytimes

Monday 25 May
Upper Riccarton Library, 9.30am
Tuesday 26 May
Fendalton Library, 10.30am
Wednesday 27 May
Hornby Library, 10.15am
Thursday 28 May
South Library, 10am
Aranui Library, 11.15am
Friday 29 May
Parklands Library, 10.30am

Koko and computers

Thursday 28 May
Take part in a free computer (and cocoa) session at South Library, 1-2.30pm

Samoan language resources

Find more information about Samoan Language Week and about Samoan language resources on:

Samoa_Language_Week_2015