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

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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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