A smoothly told, down-to-earth tale of an American abroad.

HOW SWEET THE BITTER SOUP

A MEMOIR

In this debut memoir, writer and public speaker Qian describes how a fateful decision to take a teaching job in China changed the course of her life

Around the year 2000, the author was finding that her life in Chicago was becoming untenable. Her parents were broke, her father’s Alzheimer’s disease was worsening, and she was overworked from trying to cover their expenses. When she received an offer to move to China to teach, it seemed like the perfect solution; she could make more money to send to her parents, and she would have the necessary space to take back some control of her own life. She flew to Guangzhou, where she began teaching second-graders and immersing herself in the unfamiliar culture of the People’s Republic of China. The author experienced an unexpected surge in spirituality, as well as a new appreciation of travel and exploration: “Now that I was here in China, being given this incredible chance to learn and grow, I didn’t want to waste one moment,” she recalls. “There was something to learn, either about China or about myself, all the time.” Although being far away from her family was difficult for her, she soon met an attractive Chinese teaching assistant at her school, Qian Zhi Ming, whose “English name” was William. A romance developed, and the author quickly realized that China was not a temporary stop-off for her, but a place that would become a permanent part of her life. Qian writes with detail and humor, elegantly capturing intercultural moments, as when her mother asked her about William’s political affiliation: “So, is he a communist?” (He wasn’t.) The details of planning her wedding in William’s hometown are particularly engaging, as their engagement was met with no small amount of surprise from locals. Their marriage gives the book a more novelistic structure, which sets it apart from other expatriate remembrances; for example, when William develops tuberculosis, it adds a very real element of uncertainty to the author’s adventure. There are surely more action-packed books about Americans in China, but Qian’s smooth prose and sympathetic affect make this memoir a compelling read.

A smoothly told, down-to-earth tale of an American abroad.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-614-5

Page Count: 296

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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