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

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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