A satisfying juggling act of academic research and engaging popular history.

CHAMPIONS DAY

THE END OF OLD SHANGHAI

A distillation of the international flavor of old Shanghai and its sublimated race relations through one wartime day of celebration, mourning, and horse racing.

Carter, a history professor and fellow of the National Committee on U.S.–China Relations, focuses on Nov. 12, 1941, when “three crowds gathered in Shanghai…in different locations and with very different motivations” but all “represent[ed] tremendous change amid the crises engulfing China.” It was the time of Japanese occupation, yet the International Settlement, the 3-square-mile area that served as an extraterritorial colony sheltering foreigners amid the bustling Chinese city, remained technically neutral. The Settlement was also the host of the vaunted Shanghai Race Club, whose last Champions Day race was held on this day. This event, ably portrayed by the author, drew the first—and largest—crowd. Originally established in 1850 by British residents who had elbowed their way into Shanghai commerce after the Opium Wars, the SRC gained popularity over the next few decades as more foreigners flocked to the prosperous city and horse racing grew in popularity among the Chinese. Excluded from joining the SRC, in the early 1900s Chinese merchants founded the International Recreation Club, located outside the IS, allowing the members to bypass “the complicated politics of the all-but colony.” The second crowd was celebrating the birthday of the late Sun Yat-sen (d. 1925), father of republican China, whose legacy was being co-opted by the city's Japanese occupiers. The third crowd was attending the ornate funeral of China's wealthiest woman, Liza Hardoon, “the half-Chinese, half-French Buddhist widow of a Baghdadi Jewish merchant, whose death symbolized the passing of a generation that had seen Shanghai rise to global prominence.” Carter, whose knowledge of Chinese history and culture is abundantly clear, moves fluidly back and forth between the historical perspective and the bitter moments when Japanese occupation would eclipse the city's once flamboyant heyday.

A satisfying juggling act of academic research and engaging popular history. (45 illustrations)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-63594-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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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Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

WILLIE NELSON'S LETTERS TO AMERICA

An epistolary grab bag of memories, lyrics, jokes, and homespun philosophy from the legendary musician.

As an indefatigable touring artist, Nelson (b. 1933) has had a lot of time on his hands during the pandemic. Following his collaboration with his sister, Me and Sister Bobbie, the road warrior offers a loose collection of lessons from a full life. If you’ve never read a book by or about Nelson, this one—characteristically conversational, inspirational, wise, funny, and meandering—is a good place to start. The book is filled with lyrics to many of his best-known songs, most of which he wrote but others that he has made his own as well. For those steeped in The Tao of Willie (2006), some of the stories will be as familiar as the songs—e.g., the origin story of his nicknames, including Booger Red and Shotgun Willie; his time as a DJ and a door-to-door Bible and encyclopedia salesman; early struggles in Nashville with “all the record executives who only see music as a bottom-line endeavor”; and return to his home state of Texas. Many of the personal stories about family and friends can be found in Me and Sister Bobbie, but they are good stories from a rich life, one of abundance for which Nelson remains profoundly grateful. So he gives thanks in the form of letters: to Texas, America, God, golf, and marijuana; the audiences who have supported him and the band that has had his back; those who have played any part in Farm Aid or his annual Fourth of July concert bashes; and departed friends and deceased heroes, one of whom, Will Rogers, answers him back. Nelson even addresses one to Covid-19, which looms over this book, making the author itchy and antsy. Even at 87, he can’t wait to be on the road again.

Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7852-4154-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper Horizon

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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