A work of enormous heart as well as research.




A satisfying, elegant personal journey in China’s fabled Northeast.

A Peace Corps volunteer in China in 1995, Meyer spent subsequent years teaching English in a rapidly changing Beijing, where he wrote his first book, The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed (2008). Against the usual logic (the Chinese were leaving the land to flock to the cities), the author settled in the remote Northeast, in a town called Wasteland, Manchuria, the hometown of his Chinese wife, Frances. There, working as a middle school teacher while living among Frances’ eccentric relatives, Meyer realized that he was interested in exploring China’s past. A rice-growing center, Wasteland (founded in 1956) was closer to Vladivostok and Pyongyang than the Great Wall. It was once the heart of the Manchu, who stormed through the country on horseback and seized Beijing in 1644, ruled for 300 years, and added the territory of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. Eventually, the Manchu mingled with the infiltrating Han Chinese; as a result, today Manchu make up less than 10 percent of the region’s 110 million residents. In addition to providing a variety of tender tales of the local folk (e.g., “The Ballad of Auntie Yi”), Meyer inserts profound and troubling observations, such as the official desecration of cultural artifacts in the name of development and the fact that many of the residents first came with families fleeing the famine of the Cultural Revolution era. Throughout, Meyer moves gingerly through Manchurian history—the gradual weakening of the Qing court as China opened to the West; the building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, bringing geopolitical hostilities; and the conquest of the region by imperial Japan and creation of Manchukuo in 1931—yet the author ends in a hopeful fashion: a pregnancy.

A work of enormous heart as well as research.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1620402863

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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