Writing to Legitimize the Self


To research her book Without You, There Is No Us, Suki Kim worked undercover as an ESL teacher in North Korea. Kim was reluctant to call the work a memoir, believing that to do so “trivialized” her investigative reporting. The result was a backlash from critics, who called her undercover methods “dishonest.” At The New Republic, Kim responds to her critics:

Here I am telling my story to you, the reader, essentially to beg for acknowledgment: I am an investigative journalist, please take me seriously. I had been excluded from the insular world of journalism; perhaps, in the end, my anger is a reaction to that exclusion. As a woman of color entrenched in a profession still dominated by white men, I have been forced to use my writing not to explore topics of my own choosing, or to investigate the world’s complexities, but as a means to legitimize myself.

Read our own conversation with Kim about her experiences in North Korea here.

Jake Slovis earned his MFA in Writing from Rutgers University, where he now teaches English Composition. He is a second-generation Argentine American and has spent significant time living and writing in Buenos Aires. He currently resides in Brooklyn. More from this author →