Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships - and the story of one woman’s terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom. As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told "the best on the planet"? Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family. (
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
William Collins
Average: 5 (2 votes)


Please login to review this resource

Girl With Seven Names A North Korean Defector's Story

Field of Interest/Specialty: History
Posted On: 05/13/2019

I teach high school students. They have a fascination with North Korea. In Girl With Seven Names, Hyeonseo Lee, describes her upbringing. She describes her views of the world, her family, and her identity. After deciding to cross the border to China for a brief visit before her 18th birthday, she finds herself in a difficult situation. She is absolutely isolated and disconnected to her family and the home she knew. Through grit, determination to survive, love for her family, and sheer luck, she shares her remarkable story. I was completely captivated and eager to know how it all turns out. Although I may not have North Korean defectors in my classroom, I believe her story is one that many of my students can find relation to. This book would be a great conversation starter and personal story to peak student interest. It is also interesting how she reflects on her youth and takes notice to things her father taught her that she believed was a waste of her time. It turns out some of those family lessons would save her life. Maybe students can read this and understand that learning is a process and sometimes we don't use those lessons right away, but life has a way of testing us. Algebra might not be the most important subject in the world, but the skills a students gains may be of use later in life in unexpected ways. I highly recommend this book, could be used in an English or Social Studies class. It also could be valuable for a book club or community group.

Review of The Girl with Seven Names

Field of Interest/Specialty: Reading/Language Arts/Gifted esucation
Posted On: 05/13/2019

Lisa Meador-Ervine
Book Review
The Girl With Seven Names Escape from North Korea
Hyeonseo Lee
In this book, the author details her early life in North Korea and her subsesequent escape from the country. The different stages of her perceptions are very well detailed and she makes a point of explaining the processes used in North Korea to build the image of a strong and successful North Korea in the mind of the people. The author’s family had good status through her father’s military career and her mother’s family being strong supporters at the start of the North Korean state. The start of her life was quite a contrast to the events that later made her leave the country.
Her story is told in three separate sections and covers the reasons for her seven different names. This book also tells of the people she meets who help her along the way and how she returns to North Korea to help her family escape. She is realistic about her descriptions of people and even those who are positive characters have human faults.
This book is appropriate for upper Middle school (8th grade) and high school. If using this in middle school, I would recommend using it as part of a Literature Circles activity where students can select the book. Most details are grade appropriate as the author does not include specific details of rape or murder- however, the word “bastard” is used to refer to Americans several times. (This is how the students in North Korea are taught to refer to them.) The term is used to show the manipulation of the students on North Korea and if the language is addressed in this manner, it is appropriate for middle grades.
One of the best reasons for using this book is the fact that is is much more contemporary than other books on the area. The author made her escape in 1997 and was featured in a TED Talk in 2008. Students will be more able to relate to what is happening in this book. Especially the use of cell phones.
I would recommend using this book because of the easily readability, high interest events and a conversational style.