An illuminating chronicle of several generations of resilient and beleaguered Chinese artists, with minibiographies, a...



A well-grounded survey of the incredible courage of Chinese artists since the first flowering of the late 1970s and subsequent crackdowns.

O’Dea, an Australian journalist who has traveled to and lived in China during the past three decades and founded ArtInfo China, first befriended Chinese artists in the late 1980s and followed their tumultuous trajectory during the years since. Here, she chronicles the lives of nine people, moving from China’s “great experiment in ‘opening up and reform’ ” in 1986, when the rehabilitated leader Deng Xiaoping, courted by the U.S. since meeting Jimmy Carter in 1979, first embarked on liberalizing reforms and artists embraced the whiff of freedom, through the tragedy of the crackdown after the Tiananmen Square revolution of 1989 and to the present embrace of forgetting and economic pragmatism. Before there was 1989, O’Dea reminds us, there was 1976, when an earlier drive for democratic action erupted in Tiananmen Square after the death of Mao Zedong, the earthquake of Tangshan, and the public mourning of the death of Premier Zhou Enlai. Many of the artists who exploded in personal expression in 1976 had been teenage Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution who were inculcated in stamping out “bourgeois liberalism” and terrorizing their teachers. Artists like Huang Rui and Mang Ke, as well as the artists calling themselves the “Stars,” created a newsletter that was eventually shut down by Deng’s regime. The author also looks at the effects of the Sino-Vietnamese War—not often discussed in China—and the “very heaven” conditions that fostered artistic freedom in the 1980s, as people began to pull themselves out of poverty. Like the death of Zhou in 1976, the death of reformer Hu Yaobang in April 1989 sparked widespread demonstrations, and the political consequences were dire, creating essentially another generation of forgetting.

An illuminating chronicle of several generations of resilient and beleaguered Chinese artists, with minibiographies, a helpful timeline, and extensive notes.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-527-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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