A vivid portrait of the migrant experience in the burgeoning western Chinese city of Xi'an, told through eight profiles of peasants who left their villages in search of a better life.

In 2006 and 2007, Loyalka, a freelance journalist who has lived in China for years, interviewed and closely observed men and women who have endured great hardship with spirit and determination, a situation summed up by the Chinese word chiku, meaning "eating bitterness." All live in the rapidly disappearing old village of Gan Jia Zhia, which is surrounded by the city and adjacent to the modern and expanding High-Tech Zone. Among Loyalka’s subjects are a family that spends long hours running a vegetable stand, an illiterate knife sharpener whose equipment is mounted on a bicycle that he pedals through neighborhoods in search of work, a live-in nanny who cares for a rich couple's house and children in order to make a better life for her own, teenagers entering into the beauty industry and a young man working in the recycling business who lives atop a mound of old newspapers. Two women are depicted as inventive and industrious supporters of shiftless and incompetent husbands. The final profile is of a businessman who represents for Loyalka the future direction of China, for he has achieved material success and is directing his energies toward finding spiritual satisfaction in doing social good. The author brackets her eight up-close profiles with an introduction and an epilogue that give a broader picture of the plight of migrants who no longer fit into the farm life they have left behind yet lack the education and skills valued in city life, of the contribution they are making to the booming Chinese economy, and of the efforts that the Chinese government is making to deal with the problem of millions of peasants pouring into urban centers. An insightful look at the hard lives of real people caught in a cultural transition.    


Pub Date: March 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-520-26650-6

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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