PATPONG SISTERS

AN AMERICAN WOMAN'S VIEW OF THE BANGKOK SEX WORLD

An ex-hippie falls into a gap between the personal and the political in this grimly fascinating yet fatally flawed debut. Odzer, a graduate student in anthropology, was onto something when she came up with the idea of chronicling the lives of women working in Bangkok's red-light district. Their strange naãvetÇ set against a background of bars showing live sex acts (and some, like a ``blow job bar'' that Odzer visits, openly offering paid sexual services) is an intriguing subject. Odzer proves herself a good interviewer and a thorough researcher. Her trips to the poor northern Thailand homes of some of her subjects are heartbreaking: With their ``fine'' clothes and liberated attitudes, the sex workers are seen as glamorous heroes. (Odzer quotes an anecdote about a schoolgirl who praised a teacher with the unlikely compliment, ``You look as pretty as a whore today.'') Odzer's examination of the confluence of money and sex is shrewd, but when she herself becomes involved with a tout (pimp) named Jek, her analytical abilities fly out the window. It's hard to keep a straight face while she coos over receiving a ``McDonald's french fry keyring'' as a gift from her paramour and then becomes disillusioned when he gives an identical one to an acquaintance. And when, immediately after they have engaged in unprotected sex, she is shocked to learn that Jek sometimes sleeps with prostitutes, it is hard to know whether to be horrified or stupefied by her. Clear-eyed about the farang (foreign) men who avail themselves of Bangkok's sex trade and the strange relationships they often develop, mistaking bought sex for love, Odzer is blind to the similar, mutual exploitation in her own relationship. Odzer seems to want sisterhood to be powerful—but what she really aspires to are the privileges of farang men. (40 b&w photos, not seen; 1 map, 7 diagrams) (Book-of-the-Month Club selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-55970-281-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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