New in bookstores this week is To Kill a Tiger, Jid Lee's powerful memoir of growing up in female in male-dominated Korean culture of the 1960s and ‘70s. Lee’s book borrows its title from a myth that one of her grandmothers – many greats removed – sacrificed herself to be eaten alive by a tiger in exchange for her descendants’ prosperity. Against the backdrop of modern Korea’s violent and tumultuous history, To Kill A Tiger relates not only one woman’s story, but also an ancient people’s journey into the modern, globalized world.
Drawing on Korean legend and myth, as well as an Asian woman’s unique perspective on the United States, Lee has written a searing portrait of a woman and a society in the midst of violent change. Lee weaves her compelling personal narrative with a collective and accessible history of modern Korea, from Japanese colonialism to war-era comfort women, from the genocide of the Korean War to the government persecution and silence of Cold War-era programs. The ritual of storytelling, which the author shares with the women of her family, serves as a window into a five-generation family saga, and it is through storytelling that Lee comes to appreciate the sacrifices of her ancestors and her own now American place in her family and society. This mesmerizing memoir is a revelatory look at war and modernization in Jid Lee's native country, a story of personal growth, and a tribute to the culture that formed her.