A Silent Strong Man


Patient readers will warm to this memoir’s message to love one’s distant dad before it’s too late.

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Cheng’s debut memoir offers a tribute to her father and life lessons about loving a stoic person.

When the author’s father was diagnosed with the final stage of colon cancer and faced surgery, she and her adult siblings, May, Sam, and John, rallied around his hospital bed with support. They witnessed his responses to the pain and ravages of cancer, and Cheng came to understand that her father’s reserve had been his way of protecting his children: “Father used to hide the pain in front of us to avoid us growing sad.” The bittersweet gift of his illness was to release him from the bonds of stoicism. Curiously, Cheng’s mother, as portrayed here, seems to be an indifferent caretaker of her husband, which hints at aspects of their relationship that the book doesn’t explore. The author states in the preface that she wrote the memoir to remember her father and share what she learned from her experience. To that end, she aims to honor her parent, dispel myths about silent, strong fathers like him, and prove that such distant dads need love despite their seeming invulnerability. Cheng’s journey offers readers a glimpse of contemporary Chinese culture, including family-centered festivals such as Chinese Tung Chee and Chinese New Year, herbal remedies thought to be legitimate treatments for cancer, and the belief in the healing power of mahjong. Readers should be prepared, though, for explicit descriptions of bodily functions and surprising hospital events, such as when a nurse shows the family a plastic bag holding her father’s removed organs. Cheng’s message is also sometimes obscured by phrases that require deciphering: “Peremptorily, we were sentimentally forcible-feeble.” More often, though, the not-quite-right phrasings have a certain charm: “Inexplicably, life will be somehow decorated with backfire. And such is the backfire that will, in a way, make our lives more legendary.”

Patient readers will warm to this memoir’s message to love one’s distant dad before it’s too late. 

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4828-2784-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: PartridgeSingapore

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016




A zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.

A revealing biography of the fabled Manhattan hotel, in which generations of artists and writers found a haven.

Turn-of-the century New York did not lack either hotels or apartment buildings, writes Tippins (February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof In Wartime America, 2005). But the Chelsea Hotel, from its very inception, was different. Architect Philip Hubert intended the elegantly designed Chelsea Association Building to reflect the utopian ideals of Charles Fourier, offering every amenity conducive to cooperative living: public spaces and gardens, a dining room, artists’ studios, and 80 apartments suitable for an economically diverse population of single workers, young couples, small families and wealthy residents who otherwise might choose to live in a private brownstone. Hubert especially wanted to attract creative types and made sure the building’s walls were extra thick so that each apartment was quiet enough for concentration. William Dean Howells, Edgar Lee Masters and artist John Sloan were early residents. Their friends (Mark Twain, for one) greeted one another in eight-foot-wide hallways intended for conversations. In its early years, the Chelsea quickly became legendary. By the 1930s, though, financial straits resulted in a “down-at-heel, bohemian atmosphere.” Later, with hard-drinking residents like Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan, the ambience could be raucous. Arthur Miller scorned his free-wheeling, drug-taking, boozy neighbors, admitting, though, that the “great advantage” to living there “was that no one gave a damn what anyone else chose to do sexually.” No one passed judgment on creativity, either. But the art was not what made the Chelsea famous; its residents did. Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Robert Mapplethorpe, Phil Ochs and Sid Vicious are only a few of the figures populating this entertaining book.

A zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-618-72634-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013



A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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