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White Chrysanthemum
Cover of White Chrysanthemum
White Chrysanthemum
For fans of Min Jin Lee's Pachinko and Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.
Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a "comfort woman" in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.
South Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than sixty years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made, but she must confront the past to discover peace. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness?
Suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum tells a story of two sisters whose love for each other is strong enough to triumph over the grim evils of war.
For fans of Min Jin Lee's Pachinko and Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.
Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a "comfort woman" in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.
South Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than sixty years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made, but she must confront the past to discover peace. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness?
Suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum tells a story of two sisters whose love for each other is strong enough to triumph over the grim evils of war.
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  • From the cover Hana

    Jeju Island, Summer 1943

    Hana is sixteen and knows nothing but a life lived under occupation. Japan annexed Korea in 1910, and Hana speaks fluent Japanese, is educated in Japanese history and culture, and is prohibited from speaking, reading, or writing in her native Korean. She is a second-class citizen with second-class rights in her own country, but that does not diminish her Korean pride. Hana and her mother are haenyeo, women of the sea, and they work for themselves. They live in a tiny village on Jeju Island's southern coast and dive in a cove hidden from the main road that leads into town. Hana's father is a fisherman. He navigates the South Sea with the other village men, evading imperial fishing boats that loot Korea's coastal waters for produce to repatriate back to Japan. Hana and her mother only interact with Japanese soldiers when they go to market to sell their day's catch. It creates a sense of freedom not many on the other side of the island, or even on mainland Korea, a hundred miles to the north, enjoy. The occupation is a taboo topic, especially at market; only the brave dare to broach it, and even then only in whispers and behind cupped hands. The villagers are tired of the heavy taxes, the forced donations to the war effort, and the taking of men to fight on the front lines and children to work in factories in Japan.

    On Hana's island, diving is women's work. Their bodies suit the cold depths of the ocean better than men's. They can hold their breath longer, swim deeper, and keep their body temperature warmer, so for centuries, Jeju women have enjoyed a rare independence. Hana followed her mother into the sea at an early age. Learning to swim began the moment she could lift her head on her own, though she was nearly eleven the first time her mother took her into the deeper waters and showed her how to cut an abalone from a rock on the seafloor. In her excitement, Hana lost her breath sooner than expected and had to race upward for air. Her lungs burned. When she finally broke the surface, she breathed in more water than oxygen. Sputtering with her chin barely above the waves, she was disoriented and began to panic. A sudden swell rolled over her, submerging her in an instant. She swallowed more water as her head dipped beneath the surface.

    With one hand, her mother lifted Hana's face above the water. Hana gulped in air between racking coughs. Her nose and throat burned. Her mother's hand, secured at the nape of her neck, reassured her until she recovered.

    "Always look to the shore when you rise, or you can lose your way," her mother said, and turned Hana to face the land. There on the sand, her younger sister sat protecting the buckets containing the day's catch. "Look for your sister after each dive. Never forget. If you see her, you are safe."

    When Hana's breaths had returned to normal, her mother released her and commenced diving with a slow forward somersault down into the ocean's depths. Hana watched her sister a few moments longer, taking in the serene sight of her resting on the beach, waiting for her family to return from the sea. Fully recovered, Hana swam to the buoy and added her abalone to her mother's catch, which was stowed safely in a net. Then she performed her own somersault, down into the ocean's thrumming interior, in search of another sea creature to add to their harvest.

    Her sister was too young to dive with them when they were that far from the shore. Sometimes, when Hana surfaced, she would look first to the shore to find her sister chasing after seagulls, waving sticks wildly in the air. She was like a butterfly dancing across Hana's sightline.

    Hana was...

About the Author-
  • Mary Lynn Bracht completed an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. An American author of Korean descent living in London, she grew up in a large ex-pat community of women who came of age in post-war South Korea. In 2002 Bracht visited her mother's childhood village, and it was during this trip she first learned of the "Comfort Women." White Chrysanthemum is her first novel.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 13, 2017
    Bracht’s debut novel explores the horrors of war and the fortitude of familial bonds. In 1943 Korea, 16-year-old Hana is a haenyeo, a female diver who helps support her family with the catches she finds in the sea. But her life is forever altered when, in an attempt to hide her little sister, Emi, from a Japanese soldier, she is captured and forced to work at a brothel as a prostitute for Japanese soldiers in Manchuria. The story jumps forward to 2011, when Emi is in Seoul to visit her daughter, to find her sister, and to participate in the weekly Wednesday demonstrations that are held in front of the Japanese embassy to demand justice for the “comfort women” who were forced to become prostitutes during World War II. Emi has carried her guilt about Hana’s abduction for decades, but now believes she may finally have a chance to find out what happened to her sister. Masterfully crafted, Bracht’s mesmerizing debut novel is rich with historical detail and depth of emotion. This is a memorable story about the courage of Korean women during the Second World War. Agent: Rowan Lawton, Furniss Lawton Agency.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Greta Jung tells the heartbreaking story of two sisters who were parted by history and their intervening years of pain in Japanese-occupied Korea. Hana and Emi are fisherwomen, known as HAENYEO. As the two sisters are separated by conflict, oppression, and time, Jung's soft voice brings across the grief of irredeemable tragedy. Soldiers are an ever-present danger, and one day Hana is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice. She becomes a sex slave, a "comfort woman," to the Japanese army for years. The chapters journey forward and backward in time, taking listeners from the harsh realities of Korea in the mid 1940s to Emi's guilt as an old woman who is searching for her older sister. Jung captures the love and loss in her lyrical delivery. M.R. � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
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Mary Lynn Bracht
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