How closely they guarded their lives, those Chinese-Americans pressing the clothes, so that we were never able to focus on them or comprehend their outlook. Concealment thwarted the gods, the author of these extraordinary memoirs reports, and their American-born children too—always trying to get things straight, to name the unspeakable. But her mother talked stories in warning, and these merged into dreams, hopes, new stories. One aunt, cast out by the family, drowned herself and her newborn bastard daughter in the well: Adultery is extravagance. Could people who hatch their own chicks and eat the embryos and the heads. . .—could such people engender a prodigal aunt? To be a woman, to have a daughter in starvation time was waste enough. But if women must be slaves, they may also be warriors (the book is hospitable to paradox) like the warrior woman Fa Mu Lan, whose story becomes the author's as—no maidenly Joan of Arc—she rides into battle with her childhood friend/ husband at her side and her infant son inside her armor. (My American life has been such a disappointment.) Her mother studies medicine and, to impress her schoolmates, routs a ghost; she yanks bones straight in a silk robe and western shoes (until my father sent for her to live in the Bronx). An elderly aunt from Hong Kong is goaded into reclaiming the husband, since remarried, who has not seen her—but has supported her—for thirty years. The tightknit story of their confrontation is the author's invention, an intricate Chinese knot like the one once proscribed to protect the knot-maker's eyes: If I had lived in China, I would have been an outlaw knot-maker. Still, she wants to go back to China to sort out what's just my childhood, just my imagination, just my family, just the movies, just living. The several strands, inseparable here, create a spirit-presence you won't soon forget.

None None

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1976

ISBN: 0679721886

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1976


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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