An eloquent, thought-provoking and timely memoir.



A noted journalist and educator’s reflections on his Chinese heritage and on “the chance America still has to be something greater than the sum of its many tinted parts.”

As a young man, Atlantic correspondent Liu (Guiding Lights: The People Who Lead Us Toward Our Purpose in Life, 2004, etc.) believed that his choices determined who he was. Life experience later led him to conclude that he was “less the calligrapher than the parchment, absorbing the ink and scripts of others,” including—and especially—his Chinese-born parents. In this vigorous, sharp book, the author examines his identity against the backdrop of both Chinese and American cultures. Steeped as he was in Western democratic values, Liu realized that his parents had also imbued him with a strong sense of the “rite, propriety, social context and obligation” that defined Chinese society. Even his home exposure to Chinese language, with its “implied meanings [and] freighted terseness,” had influenced his writing and his way of thinking/being. While Liu’s love for America was beyond question, he also recognized that it was shaped more by a Chinese-inflected desire to belong to a whole rather than by some abstract idea of America. His appearance made him subject to cultural classification that subsumed the specificity of his Chinese heritage into a homogenizing Asian one. Such categorization transformed him into the unseen “model minority,” a stereotype that emerged in part as a cultural response to such Sinophobic historical developments as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. For Liu, Chinese-American identity remains problematic. Yet in a world where the U.S. now competes with an aggressively modernizing China, America still retains the cultural edge. The key is not for the U.S. to become more like China, which Liu sees as unable to synthesize cultural differences. Rather, it is to become even more open to combining “new genes and memes” and in so doing, demonstrate its global indispensability.

An eloquent, thought-provoking and timely memoir.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-194-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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 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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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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