A fresh look at a confounding nation the West has not yet figured out.



An astute, succinct study of modern China emphasizing overarching themes like hybrid identity and foreign influence rather than nationalism and centrality.

In presenting this complex portrait of a fast-changing, multiethnic empire as it collided head-on with modern currents, Westad (International History/London School of Economics; The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, 2005, etc.) takes a thematic approach, following a dozen currents including the effects of imperialism and the relationship with Japan. The orientation of China’s empire for millennia was toward the Yellow River and the east, with fluid borders, numerous tributary states and a sense of centrality dictated by Confucian ideals. Since 1636, the Qing, a conquering outsider tribe, consolidated rule by expanding outward, even by genocidal means. Qing rule would steadily be chipped away during the 19th century, due to subsequent ineffectual leadership and disastrous interventions in Burma and Vietnam, uneven growth while Europe began undergoing technological expansion, and a shifting trade with Russia and England. The aggressive arrogance demonstrated by Britain during the Opium War and the concessions wrung by the treaty underscored Qing impotence, emphasized Westerners’ contempt for Chinese traditions, and sowed internal dissent. Westad employs this theme of foreign intervention all the way through Mao Zedong’s stringent shutting off of China to the outside world. The author also examines the significance of the global Chinese émigré community, which has played a key role in China’s capitalist transformation since 1978. China’s relationship with Japan grew mutually suspicious and fearful as Russia and the West moved in, and Japan’s aggressive war with China, 1937-1945, wrought unimaginable destruction, as well as renewal and modernization.

A fresh look at a confounding nation the West has not yet figured out.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-465-01933-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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