Books: Moon Tides: Book Reviews: Laurel Kendall


"Brenda Paik Sunoo’s Moon Tides: Jeju Island Grannies of the Sea offers an oblique meditation on aging through her extended encounter with the diving women of rocky, windy Jeju Island, off the southwestern coast of South Korea. Likely the last generation of Jeju women to seek their livelihoods from deep-sea diving, most of Sunoo’s subjects are now in their sixties or older; daughters have access to easier lives and the ocean around Jeju no longer provides an abundant harvest, but some of these grannies still plunge into the sea and others are only recently retired. These women speak of lives of poverty, hardship, and loss, but with a resilience that neither romanticizes the past nor asks for pity. Their words reveal the satisfactions of their own competence in the sea and their knowledge of having navigated difficult lives. Sunoo’s stunning photographs capture the strength and animation of her subjects, the joy they find in each other’s company, and the profound beauty of these weathered faces. Moon Tides would make a lovely birthday gift for any active woman approaching granny status." 

Laurel Kendall, anthropologist, curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and author of "Shamans, Housewives and Other Restless Spirits."