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The Island of Sea Women

The Island of Sea Women

Posted by Allison on November 6, 2019

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See is a historical fiction that revolves around two young women who spend their childhood on Jeju Island. Young-sook and Mi-ja's close friendship becomes strained amidst life's growing challenges, including the intensifying political unrest leading to the Second World War and Korean War.

This is a sweeping story that traverses multiple decades and provides the reader with rich details as we learn about life on Jeju Island in the mid-20th century onwards. The story is infused with historical facts about the country’s unrest; some of which I found difficult to read because of the atrocities that occurred but were important to understand. This book would appeal to readers who appreciate immersing themselves in another time and place; readers of Lisa See’s other works such as The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and China Dolls; and anyone who wants to learn more about this aspect of Korea's history.  

As well as being a story of friendship, The Island of Sea Woman is also a journey into the lives of the strong, independent Haenyeo women on Jeju Island: free divers in Korea whose work it is to harvest sea creatures. The practice has been going on for centuries but there has been a marked decline in the number of women still working as divers.

The Culture of Jeju Haenyeo has been inscribed since 2016 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. To learn more about the female divers of Jeju, check out these articles and pictures from Smithsonian and Vice

Place a hold on The Island of Sea Women - available from the Blue Mountains Public Library in a variety of formats.

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