A provocatively incisive debut nonfiction book.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist



The poetry editor of the New Republic discusses her experiences living and working in a culture hostile to expressions of Asian individuality and identity.

In this memoir in essays, Hong (Engine Empire, 2012, etc.) offers a fierce and timely meditation on race and gender issues from her perspective as a Korean American woman. She begins by reflecting on her struggles with depression, which she traces to being forced into the role of model minority. Working harder than everyone else for recognition as an artist, she describes how she watched herself disappear into the “vague purgatorial” no-man’s land inhabited by other Asian Americans. The author details how her experiences developing bonds with other talented Asian American women in college taught her to take herself seriously in a world that stereotyped Asians as “math-crunching middle managers.” She began developing a greater sense of race consciousness when watching comedian Richard Pryor, which she explores in the essay “Stand Up.” His no-holds-barred comedic monologues embodied racialized “negative [and] dysphoric” emotions with which she immediately identified. In turn, Hong attempted to access those “minor feelings” through her own brief foray into stand-up comedy. Like the experiments with language she discusses in “Bad English,” the author was seeking a way to speak honestly about her own experiences with racism in an effort to end “white innocence,” a concept she addresses sharply in a separate essay. As she sees it, the United States has achieved dominance through “the capitalist accumulation of white supremacy.” In “Portrait of an Artist,” Hong discusses Asian female invisibility by delving into the groundbreaking work of artist and novelist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Seeking to force confrontation with Cha’s largely undiscussed murder, Hong examines how Cha died while suggesting that Cha’s preoccupation with discursive erasure was a manifestation of revolutionary—rather than “feminine” self-silencing—impulses. Candid and unapologetically political, Hong’s text deftly explores the explosive emotions surrounding race in ways sure to impact the discourse surrounding Asian identity as well as race and belonging in America.

A provocatively incisive debut nonfiction book.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984820-36-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?