Intimate, subtle insights about a unique mother-daughter relationship.

How a series of letters helped the author understand why her parents left when she was a teenager.

When Koh (A Lesser Love: Poems, 2017) was 15, her mother and father left her and her older brother in California to move back to Korea, where Koh’s father had been offered a lucrative job. “It was the kind of opportunity,” she writes, “others might envy or criticize….Both position and pay left a knot of amazement on my parents’ faces.” The position was supposed to last three years, after which they would return to their children. But then the contract kept getting extended, leaving the author feeling abandoned. Her mother wrote letters and called home on a regular basis, but Koh struggled with her absence. Years later, she rediscovered the box of tear-stained letters written primarily in Korean and set about translating them. In the process, she began to see her mother in a more rounded, fleshed-out form and to fully comprehend the love transmitted through her mother’s words and her ongoing pleas for forgiveness for leaving her daughter at such a pivotal age. Koh was also able to understand more about her grandmother, who witnessed the terrible 1948 massacre on Jeju Island, and what it means to be a mixture of Korean, Japanese, and American. The author includes her translations of some of her mother’s letters as well as the originals. Her bewilderment regarding her mother’s decision is deeply evident, as are her gradual perceptions about how the move affected her mother. Koh also provides information on her travels to Japan, where she studied, and her brief stint as a dancer in Korea, and she explains how she eventually found her way into a poetry writing program in college and how that further helped her grasp the feelings embedded in her mother’s letters.

Intimate, subtle insights about a unique mother-daughter relationship.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947793-38-5

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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

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