THE MUMMIES OF öRöMCHI

In an often fascinating glimpse of an exotic lost world, textile expert Barber (Occidental Coll.; Women’s Work, The First 20,000 Years, 1994, etc.) unravels the mysteries of the beautifully preserved mummies of örÅmchi, a city in western China. In1994 the West learned of dazzlingly appareled ancient mummies, discovered buried in the deserts of China’s remote Uyghur Autonomous Region. Astonishingly, these mummified remains, the most venerable of which were approximately 2,000 years old, evoked the specter of tall, blond Caucasian people, wearing magnificently colored clothing, including polychrome leggings and high-peaked “witches’ hats.” The following year, as part of a team of US scholars, Barber was able to observe these finds in the museum of örÅmchi. Although the graves contained few artifacts besides garments, Barber gleans what she can of the origins, life, and culture of these people from their brightly hued textiles, preserved from decay by the dry desert climate. Afforded a rare glimpse of prehistoric fabrics, the author draws parallels with the weaving techniques of Japan and the Middle East, particularly Persia—but also, more provocatively, with those of the Celtic peoples of Ireland and Scotland. She speculates that these mysterious people were peripatetic herders and oasis-hoppers of Indo-European origin, possibly Turkic-speaking, and she establishes links between the Caucasian people of this remote Chinese region and the ancient Celts. Other evidence may link the mummies with the ancient Iranians. Barber attempts to visualize the primeval landscape: She concludes that today’s desert was then lush and inviting, moisturized by runoffs of glacial rainwater. The trove of mummies points to a vital prehistoric culture, nourished by contacts with both European and Chinese societies, and shows an ancient commerce between East and West, the legacy of which lives on in the Caucasian features of Chinese-speaking modern inhabitants of the region. A haunting archaeological excursion. (16 pages color, 50 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-393-04521-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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