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UNDER RED SKIES

THREE GENERATIONS OF LIFE, LOSS, AND HOPE IN CHINA

A remarkable multigenerational memoir that clearly explores “the real China—its beauty and ugliness, the weird and familiar,...

A personal examination of rural China and its one-child policy by a millennial Chinese woman who eventually earned an education and employment as a journalist.

A former reporter for the New York Times Beijing Bureau, Kan was born in 1989 in the village of Chaoyang, which was rebuilt after the great Tangshan earthquake of 1976. Since she was her mother’s second child, her birth had to be hidden from the registrars; if the secret was revealed, her poor family of farmers would receive a fine that would be difficult for them to afford. In the end, her strong-willed mother was determined not to abort her. While the cost was considerable—and they had to endure friction with their in-laws and shame within their community—the family moved to a larger neighboring town where, unlike her cousins, she and her brother would have a chance to receive an education. Condemned to live in a tiny apartment crammed next to others, the author was subjected to prejudice about her accent and her looks, but she was able to validate herself through dedicated focus and fervent patriotism as a Young Pioneer. At school, she writes, “the lessons were meant to unify us, by pointing at a shared enemy for all—mainly the British, Japanese, and Americans.” As a child of conservative parents, Kan, who has no problem with candid introspection, also looked to her beloved grandmother Laolao. During her childhood, Laolao just barely escaped having her feet bound and expressed bitterness about her unjust treatment by the government, but she also automatically spouted the clichés about boys being superior to girls, to the author’s dismay. Impressively, Kan beat the odds, managing to steer clear of the ingrained courting rituals and establish herself as a professional journalist.

A remarkable multigenerational memoir that clearly explores “the real China—its beauty and ugliness, the weird and familiar, the joyful and sad, progressive and backward at the same time.”

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-41204-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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