NON-FICTION
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E-books and audiobooks

Reviews: e-books and audiobooks - Kim's Hong Kong kidnappings, and kitchen hell

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 March, 2015, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 3:11pm

A Kim Jong-Il Production
by Paul Fischer
Macmillan
(e-book)

Studios unafraid of Pyongyang should turn this story into a movie. As the subhead The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power promises, it tells of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s desperate cinematic attempts, which included the abduction in the late 1970s of two of South Korea’s film greats: filmmaker Shin Sang-ok and his then ex-wife, actress Choi Eun-hee – to give the communist state a stab at celluloid glory. Using Shin and Choi’s memoirs as his starting point, Paul Fischer conducted 50 interviews to tell a tale that is still sometimes hard to believe. Kidnapped separately but from the same location (Hong Kong’s Repulse Bay), the couple were reunited after five years in Pyongyang. By the time the pair had started plotting their escape (possible because they were allowed to attend film festivals overseas), they had given Kim North Korea’s version of Godzilla. Fischer’s book, while a little slow out of the blocks, will have readers musing about how truth can be stranger than fiction.

 

Tiny Home Realities: The Other Side of the Coin
by Mark Fontenot
Amazon Digital Services
(e-book)

Readers forced into ever smaller flats may think they will learn something from Mark Fontenot's book on tiny houses. They would be wrong, and not only because his definition of small includes homes as big as 1,000 sq ft, which, for many in Hong Kong, is a luxury. Tiny Home Realities, however, may lead them to other titles, including Sarah Susanka's important The Not So Big House (1997), from when the downsizing movement apparently can be traced. Written for an American audience, Fontenot cites a standard-size house at about 2,300 sq ft. People considering moving into a box should, he writes, first take a long vacation in a small hotel room. They should be prepared to live with plumbing that has the kitchen sink, toilet and shower in close proximity - that's if they have flushing loos: many small-house toilets are of the chemical compost type, which smell. Attempting to share the space with another human, multi-tasking tables (for food preparation, meals, work) and ladders rather than stairs are other potential deal breakers.

 

Behind the Kitchen Door
by Saru Jayaraman
(read by Yaz Manley)
Cornell University
(audiobook)

Those fighting against a rise in the minimum wage in Hong Kong had better not dine in restaurants. Behind the Kitchen Door offers a few reasons why. By Saru Jayaraman, who co-founded the Restaurant Opportunities Centre in the US in 2002, it tells of bussers, servers, dishwashers, cooks and others denied a living wage, not paid overtime, forced to work in unhygienic conditions, serving food that's off, and worse. Jayaraman underscores the disconnect between rising consumer demand for healthy food produced sustainably, and meals being dished out in restaurants where abuse, exploitation and discriminatory labour practices are common. Through the voice of Yaz Manley, she tells of workers who can't afford to take days off when sick, or are forced to do their shifts, preparing and serving food even when the risk of contamination is high. Jayaraman argues that when employers cut corners with regard to their employees' health and safety, it affects the customers as well. And that's before hospitality even comes into play.