An Indies Introduce Q&A With Sungju Lee

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Sungju LeeSungju Lee is the author of Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea (Harry N. Abrams), a Summer/Fall 2016 Indies Introduce debut for young adults.

“The story of how Sungju Lee survived his childhood in North Korea is breathtaking,” said Clarissa Murphy of Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts, who served on the Indies Introduce Kids’ debut committee. “It will inspire you and build you up, encouraging you to overcome any hurdle in your way. No matter how hard Lee’s situation became, he found courage, hope, and determination to get him through. Every Falling Star is a powerful, meaningful, and all-around stunning memoir of survival.”

Murphy recently had the opportunity to discuss Every Falling Star with Lee.

Every Falliing Star coverClarissa Murphy: What is the most important thing you want young readers to learn from your story?

Sungju Lee: Hope, courage, and love. Without these, I could not have survived on the streets in North Korea. Although my friends and I had lost everything, we had hope that we would meet our parents again someday. We gained courage from our friendship and our love for each other. I want students to know that if you have hope, you can never fail. There is always hope around you. You do not need to wait for it to find you; you must go out and grab it.

I also want them to understand that freedom is not free and to feel thankful for those who already fought for their freedom. I want readers to have the courage to pay attention to suppressed communities, because they may be able to help them.

CM: When you began writing Every Falling Star, did you have a specific target audience in mind?

SL: I was inspired to write for teens by the young people I have met who are suffering from personal problems. I want to help them gain the courage they need to overcome whatever may be holding them back. I would like to encourage them by sharing my experience with hope, courage, and love. 

CM: After everything you have experienced, what are your aspirations?

SL: My dream is to one day return home to North Korea, and I plan to make this dream a reality by continuing my studies and becoming a leader in teaching, research, and outreach in Korea.

CM: Throughout Every Falling Star there is an undercurrent of hope. You never gave up; you kept looking for ways to move forward and continue to survive. How did you keep that hope alive?

SL: I looked to others to inspire me to keep my hope alive. If you miss somebody so much and have someone you have to protect, you have no other option than to be hopeful. 

CM: Reliving memories of what you survived must not have been easy. Did writing your memoir help you to process what you lived through? How so?

SL: It is, of course, difficult to relive the past, but it also helps me to overcome my traumatic experiences. It is part of my history and has helped me learn values, such as freedom, and rights, including hope, courage, and love.

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland (Harry N. Abrams, Hardcover, 9781419721328) Publication Date: September 13, 2016.

Learn more about the author by following him on Twitter.

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