What began with The Warrior Woman—Chinese immigrant women—is now continued with the focus on the China Men who left China for the Gold Mountain; and all of Kingston's different impulses—curatorial, reconstructive, celebratory, quizzical—are again brought into play. Starting with a remembrance of her father's misogynistic curses issued while he ironed in the family laundry in Stockton, California (Dog vomit. Your mother's cunt. Your mother's smelly cunt), Kingston traces backward and miscellaneously. There are the Chinese, for instance, who came to Hawaii and cut cane, who at day's end would cut huge holes in the earth and shout home greetings to China. Or those who swung out in baskets over ravines in the Sierra Nevada mountains to set explosive charges for railroad bridges (Through the wickerwork, slivers of depths darted like needles, nothing between him and air but thin rattan. Gusts of wind spun the light baskets)—only to be driven out of the territory after the railroad was built. And family stories: the uncles who quite acceptably saw ghosts or who turned paranoid or who were driven mad by guilt and cured by expiation. Kingston's non-sentimental approach to ethnicity remains one of her strongest bases—her knowledge that a people's particular and real madness is one of its most enduring flavors. Meanwhile, too, the autobiographical thread runs snakily throughout: Kingston's father's myth-encrusted coming-to-America begins a cycle that ends with her brother's being stationed in Taiwan during the Vietnam War. And it's all delivered in short, clustering swags of prose—which usually have a hypnotically appealing command; when not, the jigsaw-puzzle approach—piece next to piece—does sometimes flirt with imagist pretension. But, self-conscious lapses aside, this remains in sum—like Warrior Woman—exemplary history in the personal, investigatory mode.

Pub Date: June 13, 1980

ISBN: 0679723285

Page Count: 307

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1980

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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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