A thorough but not always convincing story of foreign intrigue.

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THE NOODLE MAKER OF KALIMPONG

THE UNTOLD STORY OF MY STRUGGLE FOR TIBET

From Thondup, the current Dalai Lama’s elder brother, a personal perspective on the history of Tibet since the Chinese occupation.

Both proud Tibetan nationalists, Thondup and the Dalai Lama were decidedly separated at birth. The Dalai Lama was destined to “cultivate and practice love, tenderness, compassion and tolerance,” while Thondup has been well-versed in the grittiness of international political intrigue: “I do not care whether the people I work with are good or bad, whether I like them or dislike them. I just try to carry out my work.” Thondup tells his story to China specialist Thurston, who delivers plenty of her own opinions in the introduction and the afterword. Thondup doesn’t forgo family history—there is excellent background on the famed Kumbum Monastery and the Yellow Hat sect of the Gelugpa school of Buddhism—nor his latest incarnation: “I am known here as the noodle maker of Kalimpong.” But in between, the author chronicles a life of vibrant activity, which, depending on one’s political persuasion, was heroic or ill-advised, though not self-aggrandizing. What emerges from the tales of his diplomacy and interlocution, shuttling among Tibet, China, Taiwan and India, wherever he was needed; the scheming and plotting with the CIA (“My role with the CIA weighs heavily on my conscience”); and the at-times overwhelming detail, is that Thondup is a progressive Tibetan, a foe of the entrenched elite and a friend of the workingman—though he often found himself in the wrong place, with the wrong people at the wrong time. Additionally, elements of the story are hard to believe, most glaringly that the Dalai Lama had no knowledge of CIA involvement in Tibetan resistance, as well as the claim of foreign-instigation behind the recent riots (both of which Thurston notes).

A thorough but not always convincing story of foreign intrigue.

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61039-289-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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