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WomensPrize2020

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

Another tale of sexual slavery, 'comfort women', in Singapore during World War 2. This story is told from the future, looking back in the past. The focus of this story is how the experience devastated the women for the rest of their lives. After their terrible ordeal, they had another one to enduring – being were shunned and ostracized, by family and friends.

The story follows one of these comfort women, Wang Di, as she is reaching the end of her life. She has never told anybody what happened to her during the war, not even her own husband. Now that her husband has passed away, she feels regret for not telling him. Another part of the story is picked up by a young boy, Kevin. His grandma had something that happened to her during the war too, but he doesn't discover it until he discovers old letters. Between the present stories of Wang Di, and Kevin, we get flashbacks of what happened to Wang Di in the 1940s. The stories all converge at the end due to a discovery, and subsequent investigation, by Kevin after his own grandma dies.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked how the stories were woven together, and there was a glimmer of happiness at the end of the story. These women have had such a tough life: first being abused by the Japanese soldiers, then by their families, and even governments didn't want to know anything about it. I like how Wang Di takes control of her story by telling it. By telling her story, she unburdens herself a little bit, and hopefully teaches those who are listening about this terrible time, so that it may never be repeated.

I always get angry when reading books about 'comfort women'. Everyone knows about the Holocaust and what Germany did during the war, but it seems that Japan made it through the war with minimal damage to its reputation. I guess America felt pity for them after dropping two nuclear bombs on them? Many people who don't live in Asia know precious little about the horrors the Japanese Imperial army inflicted on people in Taiwan, China, Korea, Manchuguo, Malaya, and Singapore. To remember these stories, is to honor their memories.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #43 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

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