A thorough and moving biography of a comparatively obscure Chinese dissenter by the author of Enemies of the People (1987), a study of Mao's Cultural Revolution. Thurston cobbles together the life of Ni Yuxian mainly through interviews she conducted with the dissident before his death in 1988. Born in 1945 in the Shanghai countryside, Ni was the son of a man accused of ``rightist'' activity early on during the Communist rule. Denied a chance at college prep school because of his father's taint, Ni developed a fiercely critical intellect and a fearless stance toward Party injustice. As a child, he rebelled against the Party Secretary in his school; as a young soldier, he wrote a scathing 30-page letter to Mao criticizing his Great Leap Forward policies that caused 20-30 million deaths between 1959 and 1961. Convinced that Maoism was tyranny, Ni was emboldened by the Cultural Revolution, encouraging fellow students at the Shanghai Maritime Academy to question Maoist doctrine. His resistance earned him an apparently false rape charge from the authorities and six months in a jailhouse, graphically depicted here, after arrest by a propaganda team. In 1985, Ni was lionized in a newspaper article by radical Chinese journalist Liu Binyan. Notorious and marked by Communist officials, Ni was granted political exile and came to N.Y.C., where he helped organize exiled Chinese dissidents, an experience marred by accusations of financial improprieties. A vivid account flawed only by occasional leaden diatribes against Communism and by ``docudrama'' techniques such as invented dialogue. Still, a powerful study.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-684-19219-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1991

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


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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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