A Professor and CEO True Story


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

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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. 6, 2016


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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