The gentle daughter of a dancer who died at her birth and a father who was "disappeared" for owning foreign books, Jia grows up in a North Korea mountain gulag where her grandparents have been sent as punishment for their son's supposed treason. When her grandfather manages to smuggle her out of the gulag, Jia's journey takes her first to an orphanage in Pyongyang and then to a dance school where she performs for foreign dignitaries and the Great Leader himself. As life in the capital city worsens, Jia and her friends struggle to survive the "capricious political winds" of modern North Korea.
All but closed to outside visitors and influence, North Korea is among the most opaque nations on earth. In her affecting debut, Hyejin Kim illuminates this troubled country from within. Based on true events, Jia is the first novel about present-day North Korea to be published in English.