A gripping look at China’s historical turbulence from someone who experienced it firsthand.

A Professor and CEO True Story


A personal memoir that details the hardship of political tumult in China during the first half of the 20th century.

In 1937, when Cheng (The $240 Million Professor, 2016) was only 3 years old, he and his family were forced to flee their hometown of Nanjing, due to the imminent arrival of Japanese invaders. The Chengs narrowly escaped the fate of those who chose to remain and suffered cruelty at the hands of the Japanese military. They took a boat down the Yangtze River to Chunking to start a new life, but they soon faced a series of heartbreaking trials. Cheng’s sister died from pneumonia, and then his grandmother died as well. When the family moved to a desperately poor farming village in Quay-chow, Cheng’s younger brother died from an illness due to drinking the fetid water. The author himself was nearly killed when a chillingly malicious neighbor lured him into the woods and abandoned him there. Then a colonel in the military orchestrated the theft of the family’s valuable jewels. Eventually, Japanese forces moved dangerously close, so the family fled yet again, this time back to Chunking. Cheng’s father was a soldier who was often deployed with his platoon, so the boy taught himself how to fish to supplement his meager diet. When the war ended, he finally returned to Nanjing with his family, which was now in ruins, but when civil war erupted, they ultimately had to decamp for Shanghai to escape Chinese Communists. This is the first volume in a series of four that will track the author’s life from his infancy in exile to his successful career as a professor and businessman in the United States. But it’s not merely an autobiographical recollection; it’s also an incisive history of 20th-century China as the country was caught in the throes of geopolitical upheaval. Cheng delicately weaves his own story with that of his homeland’s, rendering the plight of a nation in profoundly human terms. He also sensitively and candidly recounts the complexity of his sometimes-tortured relationship with his father: “I loved Baba very much, but I was afraid of him, not just because of how he would punish me for my wrongdoings but because of his quick temper and those piercing eyes that could see right through my own eyes into the very thoughts in my head.” This is an engrossing tale that will whet readers’ appetites for a sequel.

A gripping look at China’s historical turbulence from someone who experienced it firsthand.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5245-3546-9

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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