A refugee courageously recalls his persecution in a book with some iffy details.

FIRST, THEY ERASED OUR NAME

A ROHINGYA SPEAKS

A survivor of an Asian military dictatorship recalls his brutal childhood and, later, human rights activism.

Habiburahman was a boy when Myanmar outlawed his ethnic group, the Rohingya, stripping its members of citizenship and turning them into a stateless people. His book is a rare account of growing up during the subsequent catastrophe for the Rohingya, more than 700,000 of whom have since fled across the border to Bangladesh. Writing in a spare and unrelenting present tense—as if to emphasize that the disaster is ongoing—the author describes how he and other Rohingya were reviled as “black infidels,” sent into forced labor, and trapped in villages they couldn’t leave without a permit. As a young adult, writes Habiburahman, he had to use fake identity papers to study at a technical institute, where he worked with pro-democracy companions until someone betrayed the group and he was arrested, tortured, and imprisoned. After a jailbreak, he fled to Thailand and Malaysia and then, via a smuggler’s boat, to Australia, where he spent more than 30 months in detention. Eventually, he lost faith that the needed help for the Rohingya would come from Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto head of state, and he became an activist. Written with French journalist Ansel, the book doesn’t explain how Habiburahman reconstructed his memories of events that occurred when he couldn’t have been taking notes; at times, the facts are open to question or appear to conflict with remarks he has made in interviews. Most notably, he writes in an afterword that he has cut ties to his mother, believing his family needed “to become self-sufficient,” a statement that’s hard to fathom after he’s shown repeatedly how hard it is even for a young Rohingya man to achieve self-sufficiency. Despite such inconsistencies, accounts by journalists and other observers support the broad outlines and some particulars of the moral outrages he describes, so his story is a useful addition to the literature of human rights abuses.

A refugee courageously recalls his persecution in a book with some iffy details.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947534-85-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scribe

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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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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