THE HOUSE OF YAN

A FAMILY AT THE HEART OF A CENTURY IN CHINESE HISTORY

A thoughtful, astute narrative that helps Western readers understand the rise of the new China from the ashes of terror.

A powerful memoir of the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath by pioneering investment banker Lan Yan.

The author opens with a scene in which eight security officers surround her grandfather. “I am crying,” she recounts, “because I am not used to all this yelling, all these staircase stampedes, all this banging on doors.” With this dramatic opening, the author describes the arrest of her grandfather in the early years of the Cultural Revolution. It did him no good to insist on seeing an arrest warrant, because there was none: Under the revolution’s explosion of seething populism, the country was no longer a state ruled by law. Soon Lan Yan and her family were also suspect, tarred by association with a supposed counterrevolutionary who had long been a devoted associate of Mao Zedong. Mao had had disagreements with the Soviet Union a decade earlier over his Hundred Flowers liberalization campaign, which the Soviets feared would open the government to ideological questioning; said one Soviet official, “This is exactly the kind of incitement to bourgeois thinking that we have seen in Hungary!” It didn’t help the author’s case that it was her father who translated the Soviet official’s words into Chinese. After her grandfather was taken away, her father was accused of being a Russian spy. The author, herself interned, graduated from high school but was denied permission to teach, as she had wanted to do: “Their argument was that, since I came from a ‘problematic’ (i.e., counterrevolutionary) family, they believed that I would have to be reeducated, and that in any case I was not fit to educate others.” Allied with Deng Xiaoping, Lan Yan instead emerged as a rising figure in the new era of state capitalism, becoming a partner in a French international law firm that helped open the Chinese market and then heading a bank with a predominantly female leadership, defying the fact that “the world of banking is, just like the legal world, still very misogynistic.”

A thoughtful, astute narrative that helps Western readers understand the rise of the new China from the ashes of terror.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289981-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

NIGHT

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

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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