A riveting narrative of little-known Chinese history.



In her serenely composed debut memoir, native daughter Lum provides a rare, compelling glimpse of Singapore during WWII.

Her father came to “the Lion City” in 1919, when his widowed mother decided to leave the island of Hainan and educate her four-year-old son to become an interpreter. She died shortly after he married at age 16, and the young couple was forced to move in with the bride’s mother, Popo. A disapproving old dictator, trained in herbal medicine and steeped in ancient superstition, she ruled the household; it was Popo who named the author Miew-yong (Subtle Lotus) upon her birth in 1933. As Father’s salary improved, the family steadily moved to nicer neighborhoods. His growing prosperity enabled Popo to marry off her unlovely second daughter to a government employee and to purchase—and roundly abuse—several muichai, girls sold into servitude by their families. Meanwhile, Lum’s mother embarked on a life of leisure and neglect of her girls; one daughter died of abuse, another was given up for adoption. Miew-yong became keenly aware of the ruling matriarchs’ double standard: She and her sisters were relentlessly blamed and beaten, while their two brothers were indulged. British colonial rule collapsed with the 1942 invasion of the Japanese, who oppressed and tortured Singapore’s various ethnic groups over the next three-and-a-half years. Father’s work as a translator largely spared the family from starvation, but the humiliation heaped on him by his mother-in-law and wife drove him to drink; he died at the end of the war. When Mother entered into a liaison with a married man who persuaded her to make disastrous financial decisions, it was hardworking Miew-yong and her sister who (barely) held the family together. Now living in London, Lum subtly champions the will of a young girl who refused to be silenced.

A riveting narrative of little-known Chinese history.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-58648-436-1

Page Count: 242

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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 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 19, 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...


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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