Quick, colorful glances at a rich culture.



A writer offers autobiographical vignettes, short stories, and reflections on Chinese culture and history.

In this book, Yu (Two Swordmasters, 2018, etc.) reveals that her “official and reported” birth date in north China is April 1, 1939. A self-described “unwanted girl child,” she was born after the Nanjing Massacre, when Japanese troops murdered an estimated 3 million Chinese people in a matter of weeks. Her father had been captured by the Japanese to work as an interpreter while her busy mother kept eight children safe from the Japanese army. In 1949, Yu’s family escaped from Communist China to Taiwan. Many years later, the author wrote columns for an American newspaper, the Pueblo Chieftain, and dreamed of publishing a book about China. After battling cancer in 2006, she was determined to realize her dream and pass down stories to her grandchildren. The end result is this heartfelt compilation of childhood memories and tales about Chinese culture and history. Divided into two parts, the book’s first section presents 16 easy-reading selections: autobiographical pieces, short stories, and essays. Sometimes the volume feels like an informative classroom lecture; for example, in the essay “Three Chinese Poems,” Yu briefly discusses classical Chinese poetry. Other works are much more personal. Once, on a terrible train ride, Yu’s mother hid from Japanese soldiers by disguising herself as a man and her daughters as boys. The author also paints a memorable portrait of the outmoded custom of foot binding. In “My Mother’s Big Feet,” Yu’s mother—whose forward-thinking father wouldn’t allow her feet to be bound—was ridiculed her entire life for having “big” (smaller than size 5) feet. And the tender reflections in “A snowy night in Canada” chronicle the author’s struggles to raise her daughters alone. The second section presents 41 newspaper articles with details that should leave a lasting impression on readers of all ages. For example, “The Archer and the Moon Goddess” explains why ceramic rabbits are popular gifts for children during the moon festival. While they are not chronological, these succinct works are easy to browse, and Yu’s lively prose brings her subjects to life.

Quick, colorful glances at a rich culture.

Pub Date: July 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984543-08-0

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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