Anna Carlson, still reeling from the death of her adopted mother, returns to Korea to search for her birth mother. On leaving the orphanage that handled her adoption, a strange woman presses a small package into Anna's hand. And thus begins a tale spanning nearly 70 years.
Daughters of the Dragon is the third novel by William Andrews. His daughter is Korean, and he felt this was an important story to be told. The imoprtant story being that of the "Comfort Women" of Korea during WWII. Young women all over Korea were pressed into being "Comfort Women" at stations where Japanese soldiers were stationed during WWII. Prostitution was, and still is, a huge issue in Korea, and is far too nuanced to get into here. So I'm only going to review the book, and let you, my dear reader, to your own investigation into "Comfort Women".
Daughters of the Dragon opens with Anna visiting Korea to find her birth mother. She learns at the orphanage that her mother died in childbirth, and Ana will be the only person in her group to not meet their mother. But when she leaves the orphanage, sad and confused, an old woman presses a package into her hand. It contains an old comb an address, and a request to be at the address tomorrow. After debating the request, and showing the comb to her father and the tour guide, Anna decides to visit the address.
The elderly woman turns out to be Anna's grandmother, who needs to share her story with Anna. Her name is Hong Jae-hee, and she needs Anna to know her story. The story of where Anna came from. Jae-hee's story is a difficult one, chronicling her life from living on her parents farm, to being pressed into being a Comfort Woman, working in a Cat House, living under Communist rule in Northern Korea, and her life after defecting to South Korea. But through it all, Jae-hee has one constant. The comb given to her by her sister, who received it from her mother, continuing back to the Empress who unified Korea, and created a new symbol for Korea. That of a two headed dragon, signifying the dragons protection of all of Korea
Jae-hee gives the comb to Anna, asking if she is ready to take the comb, knowing the consequences and responsibilities that it entails. Anna decides to accept the comb, and all that it represents.
I enjoyed Daughters of the Dragon. It's an historical fiction book, and as such, it fictionalizes the experiences of a woman who is an amalgam of the experiences of thousands of women of Korea. There are some chapters that are very very hard to read. Highly triggering for rape and violence. Knowing this however, I do recommend it as reading. WWII was filled with horrors, and the treatment of Comfort Women is a part of that history that has been covered up for decades. The women have been silenced and ignored until very recently. There are a number of books written by former Comfort Women, and these I recommend reading as well. But as a fictionalized account of the life of a Korean woman from before the war until present day, Daughters of the Dragon is a reasonable account.
Daughters of the Dragon
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (June 28, 2016)
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC