Black Girl From Pyongyang
The extraordinary true story of a West African girl’s upbringing in North Korea under the protection of President Kim Il Sung
by Monica Macias
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Pub Date 2 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 2 Mar 2023
In 1979, aged only seven, Monica Macias was transplanted from West Africa to the unfamiliar surroundings of North Korea. She was sent by her father Francisco, the first president of post-Independence Equatorial Guinea, to be educated under the guardianship of his ally, Kim Il Sung.
Within months, her father was executed in a military coup; her mother became unreachable. Effectively orphaned, she and two siblings had to make their life in Pyongyang. At military boarding school, Monica learned to mix with older children, speak fluent Korean and handle weapons on training exercises.
After university, she went in search of her roots, passing through Beijing, Seoul, Madrid, Guinea, New York and finally London – forced at every step to reckon with damning perceptions of her adoptive homeland. Optimistic yet unflinching, Monica’s astonishing and unique story challenges us to see the world through different eyes.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 55 members
Monica Macias has written a powerful account of her life in Black Girl from Pyongyang. Her circumstances growing up are unusual as her father decided to send her and her other siblings to be raised in Pyongyang North Korea from Equatorial Guinea. Clearly the young Monica struggles, from being a young child separated from her family, from the vigorous education process, and the new culture. Over time Monica adapts, she is in the guardianship of Kim II Sung, who takes a fatherly interest in her life and remains so until she leaves the country.
Shortly after arriving in Pyongyang, her father is assassinated, and she is truly on her own with almost no contact with her mother. As all this sinks in, Monica slows adapts, learns Korean and even finds foods that she likes. She is given a choice at the end of her studies to stay in North Korea where she now has many friends and is comfortable or go and see a world that she knows nothing about.
Her choice is to leave, and she heads to Spain as she has lost her ability to speak Spanish (this is the language she used with her mother and family - the other is Fang). In Spain she begins to learn about the world, about other people besides North Koreans, and investigates the circumstances of her father’s death. She grows tremendously, makes friends, works, and opens her eyes to the world. She gains strength from this and then sets her sites on New York, Seoul, Guinea, Beijing and London where she earns an advanced degree at SOSA, a leading school for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Overall I think this is an important book with an interesting view into North Korea. Granted it is one person’s experience, but she points out that in every country there are good and bad people. She is not making big political statements as to the present regime. At times I have disagreed with her perspective, but I see no point in taking away from her experience. There is value here if as a world we truly want peace.