The sound of ocean waves calls to the human soul in a primal language translated by the heart. Every time I visit the seaside I remember what it is to be alive, to exist on this small, aching world. So pleased to have taken part in the Alderney Literary Festival and to have had the chance to recharge my head, my heart, my soul on this beautiful island. Nature reminds us life is beautiful.
Monday night’s Writers’ Guild’s 60th Anniversary Awards ceremony was full of surprises as White Chrysanthemum won the award for Best Debut Novel. Here I am giving my acceptance speech. It’s all a blur now, but the most important part of the speech I gave was a quote by Kim Hak Sun, the first ‘comfort woman’ and women’s rights activist to come forward in 1991 to give her testimony about her experience during WWII:
“We must remember these things that were forced upon us.”
So many terrible things are force upon women and girls during the wars our nations wage against one another. Even before our governments wage these wars, they know the vulnerable citizens will suffer. We must keep the survivors in mind, ensure their protection, and help them recover when wars end. The women of Korea and Asia were forgotten at the end of WWII as the men in charge sought diplomatic amends for the recovering war torn nations. We must remedy this in future. Remember the innocents, the people who had no power to wage wars, vote, hold office, or change the tide of world events. Remember and protect them, and if we fail, admit our failures and ensure those who suffered the most can rebuild their lives. Immigrants, asylum seekers, forced sexual slaves, we must acknowledge their plight and do right by them because if we live in comfortable homes within the borders of safe nations, chances are our governments are not blameless in the causes of suffering abroad. And we are guilty by association.
So do your duty, vote. Demand a just government. March against yours if their policies are unjust. But most of all, remember. Never forget. Because none of us are immune to war. Or injustice. Or suffering. We are all of us connected in our humanity.
I want to thank the Writers’ Guild and the judges who selected my book from so many wonderful debuts of 2018. It’s a dream come true to be read at all, and to win an award for doing what I love, it’s an absolute honour.
I wish you and yours a very happy holiday season! Thank you for a beautiful year and all the love and support you’ve given to me and White Chrysanthemum. It has been an amazing journey since publication day in January. I can’t wait for 2019 and the adventures ahead!
Here’s the US paperback release of White Chrysanthemum. Hopefully this beautiful new cover will reach many more people across America. There are so few Korean ‘comfort women’ still alive today–eight women died this year. I still meet so many people who have never heard of them, what they endured, or how many perished during WWII. History is written by the victors, yet women’s history is largely ignored. It’s time to remember, to tell women’s stories, so they will be ingrained in our collective memory. White Chrysanthemum tells one story, a historically ‘shameful’ one, hidden for decades, until a woman finally comes forward to tell her loved ones what happened to a sister long forgotten.
Translated into German, White Chrysanthemum becomes And Above Me The Sea. I love the cover, the poetic title and the timing. It’s the day after the autumnal equinox and the days grow darker from here. I hope German readers fall in love with Hana and Emi. I hope the story of the ‘comfort women’ translates across language and border and personal experience. I hope so much for this novel. ❤️