Lit in the Time of War: Bandi

Hello! Happy Tuesday. This is the last week of college for me, ever, so it’s very sad. I’ve read one book this week, and have reviewed it below. I’ve also included a list of organizations you can donate to in order to support Ukrainians in need.

The Accusation: Forbidden Stories From Inside North Korea,
by Bandi, Translated by Deborah Smith

“Sangki, it’s me, Il-cheol. I’m sitting down now to write this record of my defection. You remember Choi Seo-hae’s Record of an Escape, which he wrote back in 1920? But now it’s 1990, more than fifty years since our land was liberated from the Japanese colonizers—and unlike Choi, I’m escaping from my own country. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But I want you to understand, so I’ll try to explain it all as simply as possible.”

This is a book written by someone named “Bandi,” which literally means “firefly.” He’s a North Korean propaganda writer still living in North Korea, who started writing dissident literature after losing friends and family members in the 1990s famine. His book is the first to be written within North Korea and published abroad.

It tells of the lives of everyday people in North Korea, and the psychological toll it takes to have to pretend to be happy and thankful to the country’s leader in spite of the fact that you may be starving, or dying from the lack of heat in winter, or being accused for crimes you didn’t commit. The author writes very well and is terrific at observing people. What’s remarkable is that even though the state does everything it can to turn people against each other, human bonds still exist, from friendship to family. Compassion still exists. Humanity still exists.

I’d highly recommend.

As promised, here’s a list of organizations you can donate to in order to support Ukrainians in need:

Amnesty International—Investigates human rights violations in Ukraine to hold those responsible accountable, defends journalists and other people at risk. Donate here:

Red Cross—Provides first aid, food, medicine, and evacuation help to Ukrainians. Donate here:

International Medical Corps—Increases access to medical, mental health, and protection services to civilians in Ukraine and works with refugees in surrounding areas. Donate here:

World Central Kitchen—Feeds Ukrainian refugees as they cross into Poland. Donate here:


I’ve Been Published!

I’m so honored to have my crime story “And Then We Sailed Away” published in the wonderful Uncharted Magazine. My editor referred to it as a story about the nature of goodness and complicated family ties, which I think sums it up perfectly. This story is very special to me because I first wrote it in high school. Persistence pays off–I’m thrilled with where it wound up, and am so grateful for everyone involved in publishing it.

You can read the story below. Note that it does contain dark themes (given that it’s a crime story!) If you do read it, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.