How I Became an International Fugitive for Love
by Mark D. Diehl
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 07 Oct 2019 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2019
I showed up in South Korea with $20 and a dubious offer to teach English. Jennifer was the wickedly smart, fiercely independent second daughter of one of Korea's most influential families. We fell in love in a country where even sitting together brought angry stares, taunts, and threats. Our employer forbade us from seeing each other, but we continued in secret. Eventually, her family became suspicious and had her followed. Their efforts to separate us in the days after that were relentless and violent. We were forced to abandon everything and flee to Hong Kong, where our situation only became more dire.
An engrossing, poignant, and often disturbing adventure; loaded with historical and cultural details about the Korean Peninsula.
In 1993, 23-year-old University of Iowa graduate Diehl (The Book of Wanda, 2018, etc.) accepted a position at SNM Academy in Taegu (now known as Daegu), South Korea, teaching English to adults. SNM had nine levels of classes, 101 through 109. There was also a Junior Academy for younger students. At the junior school, the author met Jennifer, a beautiful, young Korean woman who captured his heart. She was a Taegu native teaching English there. Their relationship—first one of friendship, then love—broke Korean social norms and put them in great danger. She was the middle child and, worse, the second daughter of a wealthy, professional family. “I was a disappointment to them the day I was born,” she told Diehl. Within the family, her needs were subservient to those of her older sister and younger brother. Combining the drama and excitement of a novel with some sociological commentary, the author offers both a tender love story and an eye-opening depiction of Korean values, restrictions, and strengths in the early ’90s. As a white man, he was viewed with suspicion, which turned into outright hostility whenever he was seen walking or dining with Jennifer. Through re-creations of classroom dialogue with his most advanced students, the 109s, Diehl deftly highlights various aspects of Korean social stratification. One student explained: “Men are different. To men, most important is respect. Way to get respect is to be a manager. When every man is manager and every woman is mother, then everyone is happy.” After Jennifer’s parents discovered she was dating an American, threatening to disgrace the family, they beat her mercilessly. Here the narrative turns from being intriguing and at times lighthearted to gripping, as under the cover of darkness and with contrived documentation, the couple fled to Hong Kong and later the United States.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 12 members
I enjoyed reading this book, mostly I enjoyed the setting South Korea, a place where not many books are set. Just because of this the book became fascinating to me. It is a true story and there is an innocence to it. The year was 1993, so still a time I feel I could relate to. Mark an impoverished graduate from the US arrived in South Korea to teach English. At the school he worked in, he meet and fell in love with a local girl but this is no ordinary love story and there is nothing mushy about it. For anyone who likes to read about relationships and social norms in a place that we don't know a lot about, this book is an eye opener and is at times both moving and gripping. I would love to hear more about what happened after the conclusion of the book, although there is a resume at the end.
I loved “Stealing Cinderella!” It is the true story of how two kindred spirits from different sides of the globe met and realized they were meant for each other, but the society decided to try and break them up. It’s passionate and violent, and even somewhat crazy. I liked the way Diehl informed us about Korean culture by using examples from his English classes and lunchtime conversations with his colleagues – we learn about it as he does. It let me see the kind of restrictive society that exists there and how ingrained the rules are in the people's everyday lives. We learned a lot about Jennifer’s upbringing, and his, as well, by conversations they would have over lunch. This is not a head-over-heals, heart-pounding romance of fiction, but a true story about how much these two have in common even though they are from such different worlds. I see him as her knight in shining armor, though on a black bike instead of a white horse. It's not a spoiler to say that they encounter opposition throughout and only through cunning is he able to “Steal Cinderella.” Lots of memoirs teach us new things and show us interesting people in difficult situations, but none have ever gotten my pulse pounding the way this one did. It’s a fantastic read (but a true story!) and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the chance to read this. This book was a wonderful insight into the Korean culture. Mark Dielh went to South Korea to teach English classes. There he met and fell in love with a second daughter from a wealthy family. (Which is absolutely forbidden.) Through the class discussions and the difficulties with seeing one another we learn how strict the culture can be. Eventually they flee the country for their love. In part an informative book this is also a sweet romance. I enjoyed the slow immersion into Korean lifestyle, the writing and tone allows the reader to learn without feeling like your reading a textbook.
In this fascinating memoir Mark Diehl describes his experience as an English teacher in a large South Korean city during the early 1990's. The cultural differences that he experienced to begin with were enormous, but then when he wanted to date a fellow teacher who happened to be Korean the obstacles seemed insurmountable. Jennifer, the young woman he fell in love with, was expected to follow every wish of her parents in order to promote their honor and status, and was indeed considered their property. The couple was treated with hostility by nearly everybody, and were in pretty continual danger. The true story of their efforts to escape from South Korea is exciting and suspenseful, every bit as much of a page turner as a fictional thriller.
Love conquers all. That is what I kept thinking as I read Stealing Cinderella, by Mark D. Diehl. This is the real life love story of Mark and Jennifer. Although, it reads as action movie! Mark and Jennifer met in South Korea while they were both teaching English. Jennifer, a native South Korean and Mark a recent college graduate from Iowa. Their connection was pure and true. But their cultures clashed. They couldn't be more different. Their desire to be together and to leave South Korea for the United States is the focal point of this memoir. Although the book started slowly, it quickly picked up tempo as the Mr. Diehl described South Korea and how he fit in, or didn't fit in, to the area. When Jennifer entered his life, we learned more about South Korean culture and how Jennifer, being the middle child, felt ignored and abandoned. I learned about the need for obedience and hierarchy in South Korea. The danger for Mark to be seen with a South Korean woman was great, but it was more dangerous for Jennifer. And that danger never stopped until they made it to Iowa. I thoroughly loved this book. I really could see it as a movie. There are so many exciting scenes, I found myself holding my breath a few times. There is a lot to be learned about culture and respect for culture from this book. But there is much to be learned about human respect. I know that a South Korean child needs to follow the directions given by the parent, from where to go to school, what to major in and what job they will get when completed, not to mention who they will marry. But is it humane to beat that child unconscious if they don't follow those directions. This memoir gives us much to consider.
I loved this book from start to finish. The author's detailed descriptions of Korean life and culture drew me in immediately. In the beginning, Diehl, and his wife, Jennifer, went through some harrowing experiences in order to be together as a couple. Despite Korean society's disdainful look upon Koren women dating American men, they met secretly while continuing their relationship. Diehl's outlook, humor, and never-give-up attitude helped both of them to finally get to the U.S., eventually telling their story. As an international educator who never worked in South Korea, I enjoyed Mark's retelling of his time there and his many experiences with the administration, roommates, and other teachers. From his vivid descriptions, life in South Korea at that time was not altogether enjoyable, either. I always enjoy reading about other cultures and this book definitely delivered. I couldn't help wondering if South Korea is still like that today. Stealing Cinderella is a ride worth taking. The ups and downs will keep you entertained to the very end and keep you wondering, did this really happen? Thank you NetGalley, Mark Diehl, and publisher for granting me permission to read and review this book.
Fantastic book! It was a great combination of being an intriguing and, often, suspenseful personal memoir as well as an informative reflection on Korean society. I was drawn to this book because my son wanted to go to Asia to teach English, much like the author did. I had recommended he go to South Korea because I also thought it was an up and coming country, but he was intent of going to Japan instead and I'm so glad he did. I don't know whether it was the fact that it was 20 years later (he went in 2014) or whether the Korean culture and acceptance of foreigners and particularly of a relationship between a Asian woman and Western man is so different from the Japanese norms, but he encountered none of the frightening problems and married a lovely Japanese woman this year with the full blessing of her family, complete with the four changes of costume during the wedding ceremonies, and they continue to live happily in Japan. I would have been interested in information on whether what Mark Diehl encountered is still what would be expected today. The section on the experiences in Hong Kong were as compelling and informative as those in Korea, and I very much appreciated the epilogue and pictures since I felt quite invested in the couple and their long-term well-being. This is a book that will stay with me and that I will enthusiastically recommend to others, and I thank the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance e-copy.