A terrific feminist story and a significant document of this incredible human feat.

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UNBOUND

A TRUE STORY OF WAR, LOVE, AND SURVIVAL

Journalist King (Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival, 2004, etc.) follows the 30 remarkable women who endured the Red Army’s legendary Long March.

The word “unbound” in the title reflects the radical communist message espoused by early leaders like Mao Zedong that women long suppressed in Chinese society—their feet broken and bound, married off as children, reduced to lives as chattel and servants—had important roles as soldiers and reformers in the new revolutionary movement. The Communists effectively infiltrated the peasant villages with their message, and girls leaped at the chance to flee their blunted status. When Mao masterminded the movement of the hugely unwieldy 86,000-man guerrilla army from its encirclement by the Nationalists in Jiangxi in October 1934, 30 of the strongest women—some teenagers—were selected to accompany the men. Their job was largely to care for the convalescents in the mobile hospital unit. King traces their yearlong trek from Ruijin, across southwestern China, then northward, within the First Army, which was headed by Mao and later splintered into other units such as the Fourth Army, headed by the renegade Zhang Guotao. Eventually the armies converged in Sichuan in June 1935. After nearly 4,000 miles, decimated by disease, lack of adequate food, exposure and attrition, many of the group perished. Some of the women had to give birth along the way, then abandon their children to peasant families. The terrain was unbelievably harsh, and they faced Nationalist and Tibetan skirmishes along the way. King pursues the sad irony of these women’s fates through the Cultural Revolution, when many of the early heroines—whom he depicts in photos and mini-biographies—were persecuted and destroyed.

A terrific feminist story and a significant document of this incredible human feat.

Pub Date: March 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-16708-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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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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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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