A meandering moral journey conveyed through charming characters and surprising events.

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THE BANQUET BUG

Chinese-born Yan (The Lost Daughter of Happiness, 2001), now living in the U.S. and writing in English, wonderfully imagines the easy-come, easy-go life of an unemployed Beijing factory worker passing for a journalist.

Three years before the story’s main action, Dan Dong is dismissed from his job at a suburban cannery and installed in makeshift worker-housing with his guileless young wife, Little Plum. He didn’t intend to impersonate a journalist when he turned up for a job interview at a five-star hotel, but he’s mistakenly directed to a banquet in progress, where he learns that journalists pick up a fee of 200 yuan per event to write about whatever is being promoted. Dan has business cards printed, and is soon a practiced “banquet bug.” His enjoyment of these sumptuous meals is marred only by his inability to share them with Little Plum; he hates to think of his adored wife “spending her life as their neighbors do, with so many omissions . . . as if unlived.” At a bird-watchers banquet, he witnesses famous artist Ocean Chen react in moral outrage when served peacock; the two men, both from Gansu Province, strike up a friendship. Hard-shelled veteran journalist Happy Gao, believing that unassuming Dan is a seasoned reporter, aims to get in on the action. She takes him to a brothel in exchange for his article on the peacock debacle. While Happy instructs Dan in the art of give-and-take, Ocean Chen acts as his conscience. Constantly asked to write about the plight of other people, Dan uncomfortably comes to realize that the journalist’s job is to bring hope, a responsibility our Everyman finds enormous and practically unbearable. After all, Dan is a mere mortal, as the author demonstrates in her delightful, unique voice.

A meandering moral journey conveyed through charming characters and surprising events.

Pub Date: July 11, 2006

ISBN: 1-4013-6665-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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