Vividly detailed vignettes of living with a remarkably generous people who are determined to move on.

An American journalist's low-key but affectionate account of her extended visits to Vietnam, beginning in the early 1990s, that reflect more personal than political reactions to a country recovering from its war-torn past and tentatively embracing western culture.

Sachs first visited Vietnam in 1989, when Americans were finally allowed to enter as tourists. Born in 1962, Sachs had only dim memories of the war, and her brief visit was the start of a love affair with the country. Back in the US, she set about learning Vietnamese and in 1992 returned for an extended stay. In Hanoi she rented rooms on Dream Street from a young family who soon became dear friends. Although not one of those fearless women who cross deserts on a camel, the author gradually did adapt to the cultural differences—being always recognizable as a foreigner was the hardest adjustment for her to make—and learned how to negotiate the crowded streets on her bicycle. As her Vietnamese improved, she was able to talk to people and was impressed by their willingness to forgive and forget. Vietnam had been at war (with different enemies) for centuries—and their greatest enmity seems reserved not for the Americans but the Chinese, whom they still fear. Sachs fell in love with Phai, a mechanic, but when she returned to the US she realized there were too many educational and cultural differences between them, and she ended up marrying an American instead. On her next visit, instead of teaching English, she worked as a journalist and associated more with the local intelligentsia than with the neighborhood street merchants. Warmed by the friendships she made, she later returned once more with husband and young son for what was, in fact, a joyous family reunion.

Vividly detailed vignettes of living with a remarkably generous people who are determined to move on.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2000

ISBN: 1-56512-291-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview