A deft, illuminating memoir and cultural history.

BIG LITTLE MAN

IN SEARCH OF MY ASIAN SELF

A Filipino writer explores his racial identity.

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Tizon (Journalism/Univ. of Oregon) emigrated with his family from the Philippines in 1964, “yearning for an equal share of paradise.” Achieving the American dream, they quickly discovered, required them to reject their language, culture and heritage. “Our early years in America,” Tizon writes, “were marked by relentless self-annihilation.” Like his parents, he came to believe that Americans were “strong and capable” and Filipinos, “weak and incapable and deserving of mockery.” Facial features and body size underscored weakness: “Americans did seem to me…like a different species, one that had evolved over generations into supreme behemoths. Kings in overalls. They were living proof of a basic law of conquest: victors are better.” As a child, Tizon saw Asians stereotyped as submissive, primitive, treacherous and indistinguishable from one another, lumped together racially as Oriental or, more derisively, yellow. He was especially sensitive to assumptions about Asian males, often portrayed in movies and on TV as servants or the butts of jokes; Hollywood insisted that Asian male power conform “to known clichés—sage, brainiac, martial artist.” Never was a male depicted as a desirable romantic hero. Similarly, Asian women were seen as childlike and “more pliant, more sensual, more sensitive and attentive to the needs of the stronger sex.” Asian women’s attitudes toward Asian males reflected mainstream culture; most Asian women, Tizon noted despondently, wanted to date and marry whites. The author celebrates some substantial changes in Americans’ attitudes as Asians have become more prominent in sports, entertainment and mass media. He came to understand, also, that feeling shame and self-doubt is widely shared: One friend was ashamed of being too tall, another of being too smart, and some told him “in all seriousness that they were ashamed of being white. They felt guilty, undeserving.” Making peace with one’s identity, Tizon concludes, transcends race.

A deft, illuminating memoir and cultural history.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-547-45048-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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