A grim, complex, and admonitory account of a deeply racist episode that many would rather forget—or ignore.

THE HOUSE OF THE PAIN OF OTHERS

CHRONICLE OF A SMALL GENOCIDE

The story of a highly sanguinary, “revealing but buried episode of the Mexican Revolution.”

Mexico-based writer, musician, and teacher Herbert (Tomb Song, 2018, etc.) uses a kind of patchwork-quilt approach to composition in this account of the horrifying episode—in May 1911, “some three hundred Chinese immigrants were murdered, their corpses mutilated, their clothes removed, and their belongings looted. Their bodies were dumped in a mass grave”—that consumed him for a number of years. There are some passages of traditional historiography, but the author also includes several interviews with residents of Torreón, where the slaughter occurred (none could tell him much about the events of 1911), and first-person accounts of his research and other related activities. Some sections about the intricacies of local and international politics—and long block quotations from others’ accounts of the slaughter—will require patience from readers, but the stories of the preludes to the violence, and of the horrors themselves, are simultaneously gripping and depressing. Murder, post-mortem brutality, the blood of children running in the streets, and xenophobia out of control: These and other aspects of the narrative will simultaneously propel readers through the pages and frequently disgust them. As the author points out in a number of places, in this particular region, there is historical amnesia about the event, an unwillingness, even, to want to know what happened. And although there were negotiations between Mexican and Chinese diplomats concerning a financial settlement, no money ever changed hands. The strengths of Herbert’s writing are patent throughout: his vast, comprehensive research; his often elegant phrases and sentences (“the surreptitious legalization of chaos”); his empathy; and his determination to be accurate and fair. The author closes with a “selected chronology” of parallel events in Torreón, Mexico as a whole, Europe/Mexico/USA/China, and China.

A grim, complex, and admonitory account of a deeply racist episode that many would rather forget—or ignore.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-55597-837-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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