A unique perspective on a period of critical transformations in China. (b&w photos)

GRACE

AN AMERICAN WOMAN IN CHINA, 1934-1974

The extraordinary life of a courageous, outspoken American woman who survived 40 years of upheaval in 20th-century China.

In 1928, the Tennessee-born Grace Divine (1901–79) moved to New York to study for a career in opera. There she met and married Liu Fu-Chi, a wedding that made headlines in her hometown, where mixed-race unions were illegal. Fu-chi returned to his native China in 1932; Grace, now pregnant, planned to follow after their baby was born. It was nearly two years before she set off with her toddler daughter to join her husband in Tianjin, where she lived for the next 40 years, bearing two more children. Grace's son and her cousin tell her remarkable story by quoting at length from letters, articles, and a memoir she wrote. The narrative encompasses the Japanese invasion of China, WWII, horrendous postwar inflation, the communist revolution, her husband's death, Chairman Mao's short-lived Hundred Flowers movement, a radical mastectomy, and the Cultural Revolution, during which she was denounced as a “counter-revolutionary American spy,” jailed, and interrogated. Grace was eventually allowed to return to her job training teachers of college English; after she died in 1979, her Chinese colleagues held a moving memorial service. A partial memoir and, most especially her letters, offer vivid accounts of a roller-coaster life and the transformation of a well-off bourgeoisie with a cook and amahs into a loyal communist living in one room with a coal stove. Grace recounts the corruption and cruelty of the Kuomintang regime and the early successes of the new communist government. She also includes her lengthy self-criticism in front of her colleagues at the university (required during Mao's Great Leap Forward). Through it all, however, Grace never regretted her decision to remain in China—originally for her husband, then for her children, and finally for the happiness that life there brought to her.

A unique perspective on a period of critical transformations in China. (b&w photos)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-56947-314-5

Page Count: 347

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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