When twenty-year-old Anna Carlson travels from America to a Korean orphanage to locate her birth mother, she’s devastated to learn the woman is already dead. But just when it seems her search is over, a stranger hands her a parcel containing an antique comb—and an address.
That scrap of paper leads Anna to the Seoul apartment of the poor yet elegant Hong Jae-hee. Jae-hee recounts an epic tale that begins with the Japanese occupation of Korea and China during World War II, when more than two hundred thousand Korean women were forced to serve the soldiers as “comfort women.” Jae-hee knows the story well—she was one of them.
As Jae-hee’s narrative unfolds, Anna discovers that the precious tortoiseshell comb, with its two-headed ivory dragon, has survived against all odds through generations of her family’s women. And as its origins become clearer, Anna realizes that along with the comb, she inherits a legacy—of resilience and courage, love and redemption—beyond her wildest imagination.
Revised edition: This edition of Daughters of the Dragon includes editorial revisions.
Diane Donovan MIDWEST BOOK REVIEWS June 2014 Daughters Of The Dragon - A Comfort Woman's Story is set during World War II, when the Japanese forced some 200,000 young Korean women to be sex slaves (i.e. "comfort women") for their soldiers, and centers around one Ja-hee and her sister who are taken from their family for such a purpose.Their suffering is terrible and when Ja-hee finally escapes, leaving her dying sister behind, it's only to find that the past haunts her. Violence seems to follow her as she finds and loses love in North Korea, flees to South Korea, and keeps secret her trials as a former comfort woman, only to find that the truth emerges time and again and threatens to destroy her.Daughters Of The Dragon is no easy read, so don't expect a light leisure story of survival and endurance. Ja-hee's world is gritty, dark, and filled with struggle; and so readers are swept along into her encounters with Japanese brutality and wartime events, with Ja-hee's only hope lying in a mysterious comb that is the sole remnant of her birth mother and which holds its own story of hope and survival, passed down through generations.Candid passages and descriptions are eye-opening and revealing: "I had become an ianfu - a comfort woman. I learned a trick, too. I examined the men's boots before they raped me. As I said, the Colonel had his boots tied tight. It was a warning sign. His type of cruelty was the worst. It was psychological as well as physical. After that, whenever I saw someone with boots tied tight, I knew I would be humiliated. But there were many others. A soldier with dirty, untied boots would be careless and quick. A soldier who kept his boots on would often hurt me. If his boots were clean and polished, he would want me to pretend I was enjoying him. Examining their boots was just something I did. But knowing what was going to happen to me did not help. In fact, it made it worse. It was like a torturer telling you what he was going to do to you next. By looking at their boots, I knew how they would rape me." And being based on actual history, they hold all the more impact and importance not just for Daughters Of The Dragon, but for a deeper understanding of modern-day Asia and why the Japanese are still viewed with caution and anger throughout much of the rest of the region.That the story of comfort women has all but been forgotten, buried by the Japanese government, is a shame. That it's resurrected here in Daughters Of The Dragon and woven into a fictional story of survival to make it accessible to a much wider audience than nonfiction could have achieved is an even more commendable choice.William Andrews has taken a nearly-buried historical fact and used it to create a masterpiece of fictional encounters cemented by a strong central character in Ja-hee.Readers who look for authentic historical meaning, strong protagonists, believable and involving dialogue, and a gripping saga will find Daughters Of The Dragon just the ticket. Anticipate brutal scenes, revelations, and struggles for survival and post-traumatic stress that follow the realistic paths of life in a powerful story of dignity, atrocities and roads to recovery.It's a shame this story hasn't been fully explored before. It's a revelation that's long needed exposure, and it's outstanding that Andrews has seen fit to research and bring it to public attention now, in a format accessible to more than just history buffs and scholars.Gayle Pace BE MI OWN BOOK REVIEWS July 2014 I found the book to be quite an education on the history of Korea, The book was very well researched. Things such as Empress Myeongseong, Japanese occupation, military interventions in WWII and the countless millions who died or were left without homes. The story is told by the voice of Ja-hee, a "comfort woman". The story is based around a 14 year old taken from her family to service the Japanese military. She is strong and survives because of that strength. She was very smart, lots of courage and lots of strength. The author introduces us to her ancestors, her family and the descendants. Returning to Korea, her granddaughter is in search of her birth mother. Here is the person who will tell Ja-hee's story to the world. The book at times is very emotional, the characters are well developed, and as you read the book, you find that it is about history that should not be repeated.The longer you read, the harder it is to put the book down. The descriptions are very vivid which brings the story to reality. Historical truths can be quite sad and this was definitely one of them. But all in all it had to be told. The book is about struggling to survive. Lovely cover.Joan Adamak JOAN'S MUSINGS and Amazon Top Reviewer This book is one of the finest books I have read in a long time. It is a tragic and triumphant telling of the atrocities that over 200,000 Korean women (usually young teenage girls) had to endure at the hands of Japanese soldiers during WWII. At this time, Korea was subject to Japan and its soldiers and were helpless to deal with the situation. In this particular Korean family, the mother was sent to work long hours in a factory producing for the Japanese;, the father was taken by the Japanese and made to fight for them where he died; and Ja-hee, age 14, and her sister were told they were to work in a boot factory. When they got there, they joined other teenage Korean girls who were forced to be sex slaves for the Japanese military and treated in the most vicious manners possible. During war times, soldiers quite often become immune to human suffering and take out on the weaker their anger, and women most often are picked up and put into brothels or such and bear the brunt of this anger.This story tells of those times, what happened to these girls, what public opinion was about them by Koreans, Japanese and American soldiers at the end of the war and how Korean split into North and South because of political division. Ja-Hee, using her intelligence, struggled to survive, including finding her sister after she believed she had been dead over sixty years. This story is well written, the dialogue is emotional and believable and the scenes are so well depicted, it is like the reader is there.Other Independent Reviews.I did not want to put this book down. I enjoyed the writing style as much as my other favorite authors (Archer, Follett, Silva, Grisham). The book influenced my perspective on the stigmas we inadvertently and intentionally place on the marginalized in society. I love a good book that changes my heart. And I now know much more about 20th Century Korean history. I will be one of the first to pick up his next book. Please, someone, turn this book into a movie. Barnes and Noble Independent Reviewer A well written and exceptional historical novel that describes not only the atrocities, but also the gut-wrenching personal feelings suffered by the Comfort Women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese prior to and during the II World War. An exceptional young woman is followed through her life from innocent childhood, through a horrific sexual experience as a comfort woman, to old age, allowing the reader to understand and experience her feelings and the very difficult recovery that was forced on these women who managed to escape and then discover that their life was forever after, altered by the social norms of the Korean society that could not accept the atrocities that had occurred. Through the inclusion of a mysterious two headed dragon comb, the author has placed the story into a historical context that provides the reader with view of Korean history, from Empress Myeongseong, assassinated in 1895 resisting the Japanese to the formation of North and South Korea as separate nation-states and invasion of American forces. The dragon comb becomes the gun in the drawer that adds mystery and keeps the reader always wanting to keep reading the next chapter to find out how the story is going to end. This book is so well written that I read this book in two days. This is a thought provoking and well-constructed story that everyone should read. This book should definitely reach the New York Times best sellers list. Amazon Independent Reviewer I invite you to read the first page then tell me you weren't immediately drawn in. Ja-hee's story of suffering, endurance and survival is not only an inspirational story, it serves as a glimpse into the shameful depravity to which humans can descend in their treatment of others. While this is an historical novel, Mr. Andrews exhaustive research into the subject imbues the story line with the resiliency of truth. And the dialogue and narrative of a Korean woman, from youth to old age, is so credible and so alive, the reader finds himself from time to time checking if indeed the author is that white male pictured on the dustcover. Daughters of the Dragon is a remarkable story, extraordinarily well-crafted. Barnes & Nobel Independent Reviewer