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"Congratulations on releasing your recent memoir; you have my best wishes for a successful publication. Please know I remain grateful for your commitment to community service and businesswomen’s mentorship. I appreciate of your offer of assistance and will share your interest with my staff. It is my hope you will continue to stay involved in your community and look forward for every opportunity to help fellow women business leaders find their way to success.

~Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

"This institution of the Presidency is larger than any one person, and I am proud of the staff and volunteers for all the hard work you have put in as a volunteer at the White House."

~President Barack Obama

"Plant the seeds of greatness today and always." 

~My Grandfather Alexander Kim, Agriculturist (1905-1986) 

"It requires more than soaring prose writing to produce a wonder such as White Pearl and I. Svetlana Kim and her book are one and the same. The passion, willpower, resilience, humor and abiding faith expressed on the pages are the same qualities found in Ms. Kim. Here is a book to remind us all of the powerful call of America across the oceans and to be better people and not take all that we have for granted. I'm a better person because of fellow writer Svetlana Kim."

-Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Mark Twain: A Life. With James Bradley, he co-wrote the 2000 #1 New York Times Bestseller Flags of Our Fathers  www.wikipedia.org

Senator Edward M. Kennedy collaborated with Ron Powers to complete a cherished and more personal project --his memoir True Compass: A Memoir. 

"A political refugee who escaped communism and came to America with just a dollar in her pocket and not a word of English in her vocabulary, Svetlana Kim will take away your excuse for not making the most of your potential. Follow her basic roadmap; the willingness to give of yourself and focus on providing value to others, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by friends who love you and a huge increase in income."

- Bob Burg, Bestselling co-author of The Go-Giver and Go-Givers Sell More  

"Enlightening and entertaining... All at the same time! Svetlana writes with vivid emotion, humor, and hard-hitting and uplifting messages. White Pearl and I is a story of love, perseverance, persistence, and happiness as well as meaning and a sense of purpose.

- Grand Master Jhoon Rhee, American Tae Kwon Doe Founding Father and Martial Arts Instructor for Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali  www.masterrhee.com

 "Profound. Provocative. Moving. Prepare to be inspired as you read this page-turning story that showcases what can happen when you face life with initiative, determination and above all, a commitment to excel and serve others. Read it and reap."                       

- Sam Horn, Author of Tongue Fu! and POP! and Create the Perfect Pitch, Title and Tagline for Anything  

"Told with honest simplicity and delightfully innocent humor, the plot of White Pearl and I reads a bit like a fairy tale. There is a sort of ogre, a few white knights and fairy godmothers, as well as a heroine who, armed with little more than great courage, good luck and a protective aura from her ancestors, triumphs. But this ogre, these knights and magic-makers, and most of all, this heroine surpass their fictional counterparts because they are real. All of it actually happened, which not only makes the author, Svetlana Kim, worth reading, but also worth knowing.

"And like the wondrous fairy tales we were fed as children, this one, too, has a deeper meaning. It is not only an amazing memoir about a penniless Korean-Russian immigrant making her way in America, it is also a testament to what is great and noble about this country. It shows us at our best - a place and a people willing to embrace and empower someone who works hard to educate herself, find meaning for herself and take advantage of the opportunities offered her. And for me, that's a whole lot better than happily ever after."

- Simon T. Bailey, Author of Release Your Brilliance   www.simontbailey.com

"The book is inspiring and interesting as an historical document as well as an autobiography. We have read many immigrant stories coming from Europe but never one from the Soviet Union and never from a Korean perspective. Svetlana's strength--and, at the same time, sentimental attachment to her grandmother's memory-- is a reminder of the need of family support and identity. It should be very meaningful to all the Korean refugees as well as for all of us building a new identity in our new country."

 -Philanthropist Eva Haller, with Oprah Winfrey, on the Schools Initiative and Free the Children

"This is a book in which a reader can live in America and travel to Russia... It reads like a novel. It grabs your attention from the very first sentence."

- Dame Loula Loi Alafoyiannis, founder, Euro-American Women's Council  www.eawc.org 

"As a diplomat for Korea, I have shared many of my countrymen's experiences and journeys they have taken and their hardships and successes when I served my country in the US, Middle East, South America and Asia. Svetlana and her babushka's tale that enfolds in the White Pearl and I profoundly illustrates the essence of the Korean people's character - persistence, hard working, 'never say never' attitude, willpower, strong family values and living for the next generation - surviving and flourishing in places you least expect. I have often shared with my children and family my amazement when I encounter Koreans in the remotest part of the world and how they all seemed to have managed in their own way to better their lives and establish a strong foundation for the generations to come. In this ever-growing global world, I am glad that stories such as White Pearl and I are being told and shared both with Koreans, both in Korea and abroad, and others in the global community because I believe we as global citizens have more in common than differences as we continue our life's journey."

- Ambassador Chong-Yul Moon

"This is Svetlana Kim's masterpiece... the book is a masterpiece and so is her extraordinary life! Kim exhibits respect for her past brought forward with contemporary overlays. If you want to know about perseverance and courage culminating in success and happiness, then read this. Kim embraces a richness of culture without forgetting the price of a rich personal history."

- Phebe Phillips, Creatrice of exquisite soft toys and author of Kitty Pink Pink "A World of Change" (released August 2009) www.phebephillips.com 

"Dare to dream - that is what Svetlana Kim teaches us in her book. White Pearl and I is full of inspiring stories and cultural history. This book is an important account of Soviet-Korean history, never before told from a first person perspective. Kim has artfully woven this important, but relatively unknown, part of history intoher tale of hope and determination for a better life."

-Dr. Eileen R. Borris, Author of Finding Forgiveness  www.dreileenborris.com

"A laugh-and-cry true story... Kim's memory of returning to the values of her Russian-Korean babushka, White Pearl, is heartbreaking and inspiring. I hope that everyone will read this extraordinary book."

- Quinn Dalton, Author of Bulletproof Girl and Stories from the Afterlife www.quinndalton.com 

"An extraordinary, personal account about an unknown history of people displaced by the great political events of the twentieth century. Svetlana Kim's White Pearl and I is a true human drama which adds greatly to our understanding of the legacy of forced migration and cultural birth."

- Y. David Chung, Film director, and co-producer of Koryo Saram: The Unreliable People  
Winner Best Documentary National Film Board of Canada www.davidchung.com

LANA KIM's persona and carriage belie the experiences of dislocation and struggles that she went through as a Soviet refugee arriving in America. Today, in the bustle of the nation's capital, Lana projects the strength, courage and aspirations of a leader, able to persuade, motivate and inspire others. Her vision is clear: that she must serve her fellowmen. The memories and values imparted by the most influential woman in her life, her grandmother, have sustained her daily life.  Lana offers her friendship to all and those who have been touched by her presence in their lives have been inspired to follow her lead.

- Reme Grefalda
Asian Pacific American Collection
Asian Division
Program Chair
Asian Division Friends Society
Library of Congress

By the way, I have been reading your book since the day you gave the book to me. Very well written and I can see a little girl with a short bang from different pages. Some time, I feel aching - maybe because it is my ancestors' stories - Korean. Other times, I can see my grandma, too. Thanks for giving me a chance to know you better by publishing your book.

- Sonya Sungeui Lee

Korean section, Asian Division
Library of Congress  



Q&A with Svetlana Kim

Lana Kim has  many gifts. She speaks several languages and is an accomplished writer, successful businesswoman, and community activist. Her greatest gift is one that she shares with all of us - her story of hope, survival, and success.

In this exclusive interview, the author shares with us her personal insights into her life and her journey from the former Soviet Union to the United States.


1. Your whole life involves travel. How has this affected you?

I don't feel that travel, as a source of change and growth, is something we naturally seek out. The history of my family is a history of travel. My people, the Koryo Saram, left Korea for Siberia in search of a better life.

In 1937, the history of my family and the history of our travel began when Joseph Stalin deported 200,000 Koreans to Central Asia. This was not a journey of choice, but a journey of survival. My grandmother, White Pearl, survived this brutal forced exodus. When I left Leningrad for the United States, it was a journey of choice and of survival. I have needed to travel to reach my goals. Because I survived my early journey, travel for me today is a way to enrich my life and experience all that this world offers.


2. White Pearl (your grandmother) is your guiding star and inspiration for your book. How has her journey inspired your journey?

My grandmother is a generous, funny, warm, fearless, and resilient soul. And yes, thankfully, she is still alive. She survived Joseph Stalin's forced deportation in 1937 from Far East Russia to Central Asia. She was just a young girl of 22 then, and I can't imagine the horrors she saw. So many people died during that journey.

During a particularly hard moment for me in 1991, when I had to decide whether to use my return ticket to Leningrad or take the chance of my life and stay in America, I thought about her life. She didn't have the choice to go home. She didn't have any choices. I had already made the hardest choice by leaving everything and coming to America. I was alive and no one was trying to harm me. In fact, I had only encountered generous people who- whether through pity for me or just the sheer incredulousness of meeting someone alone who spoke no English, helped me.

When I was a girl, White Pearl always told me that I was born with good fortune and luck. I believed her then and I believe her now.


3. Is your book an immigrant story or the story of someone achieving the American dream?

That's a good question. I feel my story is both. I believe in tenacity, the importance of reinventing yourself, and always, always learning new things. You also can't take criticism or bad luck personally. America is a land of immigrants and we have all survived by finding something inside of us or something that we can pass on to our children to help them achieve our dreams even if we can't.

I can say it certainly wasn't my dream to work as a cleaning lady. But I never dreamed of being a stock broker either. As the narrator of my own story, I may not be the best judge of the type of story this is. I hope readers will find my story and the lessons I've learned inspiring. I encourage all new immigrants to have faith, dream impossible dreams, and to know that dreams do come true. I'm living proof of that.


4. How many times have you returned to Russia? What was your first visit back like?

I've returned to the former Soviet Union three times. The first time in 1996, next in 2003, and most recently in 2007. My book describes my trip back to Leningrad in 1996. At that time I noticed dramatic changes in the city's vibe. Many young people, well, people younger than me, I was 28 then-spoke English. There were new restaurants with English menus and stores with European fashions and food items. I also noticed that everything was more expensive and polluted. Sadly, with development and progress comes problems.


5. Everyone in the United States is proud to have a nationality. Do you consider yourself to be ethnically Korean or Russian?

My people are called Koryo Saram. This translates to "Korean person" in Russia. Today there are nearly 500,000 Koryo Sarams still in the former Soviet Union. All of my family still lives there - four generations. That includes my grandmother, White Pearl, my parents, me, and thirty-three nephews and nieces. Many people are surprised to learn that I don't know how to speak Korean. My book explains how the Soviet government eradicated our language. I do speak Russian, German, and of course, I'm proud to say, English--American style.


6. Now that the huge accomplishment of finishing your book is done, what's next for you?

I still can't believe that I'm done. I'm also taking time to promote White Pearl and I and applying my energies to my volunteer passions. This fall I will be volunteering at the Calvary Women's Shelter in Washington, D.C.

Giving back to the community will always be part of my life. While I was going through the legal proceedings to determine my refugee status, I promised myself that if I won my case and became a citizen I would always work to help others. That for me is a greater accomplishment than finishing the book.


7. You write in your book that your life has been full of serendipity and luck, starting from your chance encounter at the bakery. But clearly you haven't relied on luck or waiting for opportunities. What do you rely on?

I truly believe in serendipity but I also believe in my intuition. Life presents everyone with opportunities. Some are worth chasing, others are not. I've relied on my intuition more than anything else. And I feel I've inherited this from both my grandmother and mother. Early in life, my parents encouraged me and my father taught me to seize every opportunity, no matter how small they are.

One of those opportunities that I write about is my decision to move to Washington, D.C. When the call came, I simply said yes. I knew it was the right move at the right time. It wasn't easy moving across the country and leaving so much behind, but the move has changed my life once again. I've met the most incredible people, made new friends, and started writing this book.


8. Every step that you have taken in your career has led you to another milestone. It is as if you are climbing a mountain. What peak does writing this book represent?

Everyone I met after moving to Washington told me to write a book about my life and experiences. With so many people giving me the same advice, I knew that I needed to give it some serious thought. Writing this book has opened a floodgate of emotions. It has been one of the hardest tasks I've tackled, but I've also met some amazing people, like my friend Ron Powers. This book also gave me a great reason to travel back to Russia and interview my inspiration, White Pearl. I've learned a great deal about myself and my family.

But any author will tell you that the hardest part of writing a book is letting it go and letting other people read it. What will they think of the story and of me? Then my book was accepted to the Maui Writers Conference and it gave me the confidence to continue with the manuscript. I now have the joy of sharing this book with the people I write about. This book is a tribute to the generosity and kindness of everyone I've met in America.

Writing seems to come naturally to Lana. She has been blessed with a heart to feel deeply and a mind to remember what is important. With so many interesting experiences from her life to draw from, expect Lana to author many more inspiring works.

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