Banned Books Week is coming up soon (Sept. 24-30), and if you follow “Check It Out,” you know that I’ve highlighted this event more than once.
It’s on my mind this year, too, of course, but the context is slightly different. No, that’s not accurate. The context is very different. I just finished reading “My Holiday in North Korea,” and while I didn’t pick it up because I was thinking about Banned Books Week — instead I was struck by both the title and the photograph on the cover (wait, did I just judge a book by its cover?) — I couldn’t stop thinking about banned books after I finished the book.
While challenges to books are not uncommon here in the U.S., we are fortunate to have strong laws regarding freedom of expression, and a citizenry, in general, who support the freedom to read. Now, imagine living in a world where not only do you not have the right to express yourself, you are forbidden to read anything that is not government (read regime) approved. Yeah. Welcome to North Korea.
Wendy Simmons is a writer and a traveler who says she “won’t stop traveling until she visits every country in the world.” And that includes North Korea. So, on June 25, 2014 Simmons landed at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport in North Korea and spent the next ten days touring — or should I say, being led around — the country.
Unlike most visitors to DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), Simmons wanted to see the country on her own. She was never really alone — handlers accompanied her everywhere — but traveling solo meant no fellow travelers to commiserate with when trying to process the mountain of absurdities that exist in this shadowy East Asian country.