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AT THE EDGE OF EMPIRE

A FAMILY'S RECKONING WITH CHINA

A well-written, multilayered work of poignant familial memories and personal reflection.

A New York Times diplomatic correspondent reflects on returning to his family’s homeland and unraveling their complicated past.

Wong, whose father immigrated from China in 1967, grew up in Washington, D.C., knowing little about his family’s lives in China and how his father made the decision to come to America. Stationed in Beijing for the Timesfrom 2008 to 2016, the author, an expert journalist, learned more about his father’s convoluted life journey, which is the primary focus of this fascinating, ambitiously textured narrative. His father’s parents were Cantonese merchants who “moved effortlessly between Hong Kong, with all its trappings of imperial Britain, and the subtropical countryside of neighboring Guangdong Province in China.” The author’s father endured Japanese occupation and saw his older brother, Sam, depart to America on the eve of the communist takeover. He ventured north to Beijing Agricultural University and embraced the ideals of the new communist leadership. Promised a career at the air force academy in Harbin as the Korean War broke out, he was rerouted to the remote region of Xinjiang, where he spent “six years in hard postings…in places most Chinese citizens feared going.” With the Great Leap Forward, widespread famine emerged, and he began to question the party’s leadership and to plot his journey to join Sam in America. First, he went to Hong Kong, “a significant step away from the bleak future that awaited…if he stayed under the Communist system.” The author chronicles his other visits to China—e.g., his 2023 trip to Beijing accompanying Secretary of State Antony Blinken—and he closes with an account of his time in Hong Kong in 2019, as violent protests were breaking out just before the stringent antidemocratic National Security Law was passed. Throughout, Wong capably interweaves intimate details with broader truths.

A well-written, multilayered work of poignant familial memories and personal reflection.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9781984877406

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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