A crackerjack journalist's (she's a George Polk Award winner) immensely entertaining and enlightening account of what she learned during several extended sojourns in the People's Republic of China. A second-generation Canadian who enjoyed a sheltered, even privileged, childhood in Montreal, Wong nonetheless developed a youthful crush on Mao Zedong's brand of Communism. She first visited China in 1972 on summer holiday from McGill University. Although the PRC was still convulsed by the so-called Cultural Revolution, the starry-eyed author enrolled in Beijing University and remained in the country for 15 months. Emotionally bloodied but unbowed by quotidian contact with the harsher realities of Maoism, Bright Precious Wong (as she was known to fellow students and party cadres) mastered Chinese and searched for ways to express solidarity with the masses. Leaving the PRC only long enough to earn a degree from McGill, the author returned in the fall of 1974 for a lengthy stay that made her increasingly aware of Chinese Communism's contradictions and evils. Disturbing encounters with dissidents raised her consciousness of the regime's oppressive policies. Although her zeal diminished, Wong soldiered on, eventually acquiring an American spouse (perhaps the only US draft dodger to seek asylum in the PRC) and a correspondent's job with the New York Times. When President Carter pardoned Vietnam War resisters, the author and her husband came back to North America. She returned to China in 1988 as the Beijing bureau chief of The Toronto Globe & Mail. Experiencing something akin to culture shock at the changes wrought by Deng Xioaping's capitalist-road programs, Wong was an eyewitness to the bloody Tiananmen Square confrontation. She ferreted out long-suppressed truths about penal colonies, the use of prisoners as unpaid laborers, and the public execution of criminals. Tellingly detailed recollections of the journeys of an observant and engaged traveler through interesting times. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 17, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-47679-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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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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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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