Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and Ryan Estrada

“But you can learn a lot about history by figuring out what people wanted to hide.”
― Kim Hyun Sook, Banned Book Club

I read Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada and illustrated by Ko Hyung-Ju right before Banned Book Week 2023 began. This week celebrates the freedom to read and the opposition to censorship. Banned Book Club couldn’t have been a more appropriate book to start off this year’s Banned Book Week. To boil it down, this book tells the story of a group of students who form a book club that reads banned books during the reign of South Korea’s Fifth Republic. They put their lives and the lives of their family and friends in danger in order to read censored and banned books, amongst other forms of protest.

In 1983, Kim Hyun Sook was finally able to convince her mother to let her go to college. She was beyond excited to start college, to expand her world, and to study Western Literature. Kim was ready for the break of working in her family’s restaurant. She couldn’t have known that her literature class would send her down a road that she never saw coming; it would be a massive turning point that would alter her life in a way she couldn’t imagine.

Kim’s decision to go to college happened in the midst of the South Korea’s Fifth Republic. This military regime found its way to power through torture, censorship, and the murder of protestors. When Kim started school, she was met with a wall of protestors hurling insults and molotov cocktails. Not interested in getting involved, she throws herself into her books. After meeting the editor of the school newspaper who invites her to join his book club, she is shocked to see that the group is actually an underground book club reading banned and illicit literature that the military regime has forbidden. Unsure of what to do, but wanting to read these books, Kim stays in the club and finds herself drawn into the dangerous activities that the other members are involved in. Soon she will be swept up in a torrent of fear and violence as the people of power close ranks on the protestors.

“Do they ban books because they see danger in their authors, or because they see themselves in their villains?”
― Kim Hyun Sook, Banned Book Club

2 thoughts on “Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and Ryan Estrada

  1. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long
    comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to
    say superb blog!

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