An uplifting work of incredible grit and fortitude.

THE COOKED SEED

A MEMOIR

A truly rags-to-riches story from Shanghai to Chicago.

Novelist Min (Pearl of China, 2010, etc.) came through the Cultural Revolution scarred, sickened and with a resolve to survive. While her first book and memoir, Red Azalea (1994), delineated her early, fervent embrace of Mao’s communism, her ordeal working in a labor camp and being “handpicked” (though there was no choice in the matter) by Madame Mao’s film scouts in 1974 to represent the coarsened proletarian worker in her propaganda films, this work reveals the enormous physical and emotional toll those early struggles took on Min, propelling her to reinvent herself in America. Eventually disgraced as "a cooked seed" (no chance to sprout), Min was considered “guilty” along with her entire family; she was left with a “stained dossier” and a pervasive personal sense of humiliation and worthlessness. Thanks to tips from the actress Joan Chen, whom the author had befriended during their time at the Shanghai Film Studio, Min was able to convince the Art Institute of Chicago that she was an artist and fluent speaker of English; her “crazy determination” to get past U.S. immigration officials landed her in Chicago as a student in 1984. Min’s rather dry, grim descriptions of living on visa tenterhooks for years, enduring cruel loneliness, flagrant exploitation at job after job, and appalling living situations, even involving rape, prove moving reading. Always gnawed by her duty to repay her family and send money home to give her mother the toilet of her own she never had, Min felt nonetheless tenderized by being treated as a human being in America rather than a “bug.”

An uplifting work of incredible grit and fortitude.

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59691-698-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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