This intimate look at women in Red China should not be missed.



A moving, even-handed account of three Chinese women who were part of the Communist vanguard in the 1930s.

The 85,000 soldiers who marched out of southern China on the Long March of 1934–35 were accompanied by 30 women. Lee (Chinese Literature/Univ. of Sydney) and Wiles (Translation/Univ. of Western Sydney) tell the story of three of these: He Zizhen (Mao’s second wife), Kan Keqing (the “Girl Commander”), and Wang Quanyuan (a peasant who left the husband she barely knew to take up the Communist cause). The march was especially difficult for pregnant women. He Zizhen (whom Mao had grown tired of and more or less abandoned) gave birth on the Long March and was made to leave her baby with an “opium-drenched hag living in inconceivable poverty” who was paid a few silver dollars and several bowls of opium to take the child—but at least He Zizhen’s labor was relatively uneventful. Zeng Yu, another woman on the march, went into labor in December and was carried on a stretcher until her porters bolted under fire, leaving her to face her fate alone. She then traveled by horseback until her water broke, at which point she resumed walking. Finally she collapsed and was carried by two other women (while a third cradled the protruding head of her baby, who, after being born later that night, was abandoned to a sure death). Lee and Wiles provide a rather grim portrait of life for women in Communist China in the years after the Long March, and they dryly note that immediately after the passage of the Marriage Law of 1950 (which guaranteed women equality in marriage, divorce, and property ownership), thousands of women filed for divorce. But Communist China was never a feminist utopia—if women were guaranteed legal equality, many men still harbored older attitudes about the role of the sexes.

This intimate look at women in Red China should not be missed.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-86448-569-8

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Allen & Unwin/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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