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An energetic memoir that captures the collision between an open-hearted iconoclast and a free-market totalitarian state.

Passionate account of an American journalist witnessing China’s pro-Western awakening and the authoritarian pushback.

Savitt, the in-house Chinese-English translator for the New York Times, opens with a dramatic tableau of his own experience in 2000 as a hunger-striking detainee. He then rewinds the narrative to his arrival in 1983 as one of China’s first cross-cultural exchange students, traveling from Duke University to Beijing Teacher’s College. He was enthralled by a society encountering its first new freedoms. “The Chinese have had every aspect of their lives dictated to them for decades,” he writes. “Now they’re collectively removing their shackles and a vibrant society is sprouting up between the cracks of grey official Communist culture.” Handling China’s still-intense restrictions with a chipper optimism, he quickly made friends in an embryonic circle of musicians, bohemians, and academics, many of whom would later gravitate toward the pro-democracy movement. Such social mixing was frowned upon by the authorities, but Savitt’s language and networking abilities advanced his journalistic career. At age 25, he became a UPI correspondent, in time to witness the infamous crackdown on the long-simmering progressive movement in Tiananmen Square, which he portrays in a grim, exciting set piece suggesting that greater brutality occurred than the West knew. Jumping forward to 1993, as online culture was just beginning, Savitt founded an unsanctioned English-language newspaper, assured by his connections that the Communist Party would take a “one eye open, one eye closed” attitude toward such a rebellious endeavor. While this proved true for a while, he was eventually arrested and treated brutally for not informing on his native-born colleagues. Savitt portrays such gritty adventures with an incongruously cheerful tone; he’s observant of every level of everyday life as China lurched toward state-monitored prosperity. Some narrative jumps lessen his tale’s overall coherence, and it ends abruptly, with Savitt unceremoniously expelled and no resolution of the newspaper’s drama.

An energetic memoir that captures the collision between an open-hearted iconoclast and a free-market totalitarian state.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59376-652-8

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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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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