A sympathetic portrait of South Asians who are neither crazy and rich nor humorless nerds.

MISSED TRANSLATIONS

MEETING THE IMMIGRANT PARENTS WHO RAISED ME

New York Times reporter and stand-up comedian travels to India, looking for clues to his immigrant parents’ lives, and finds lighter moments amid dark family secrets.

Growing up Hindu in suburban New Jersey, debut author Deb learned that Indian weddings were multiday events, “a slightly tamer version of Burning Man.” When his best friend decided to get married in India, the author decided to make his first visit to the country to which his father had returned after his parents’ divorce. Deb hoped to find answers to long-simmering questions: Why was his mother so unhappy? What made his parents’ arranged marriage a disaster when an aunt and uncle’s had thrived? Why had his father abruptly gone back to India, without explaining why? Accompanied by his American girlfriend, Deb embarked on a five-city tour that began at his father’s flat in a neighborhood he calls “the Brooklyn of Kolkata.” Over the next three weeks, as he visited relatives and monuments, skeletons tumbled out of a family closet that the author breezily inventories. He chronicles his years as a “self-loathing Bengali child” in largely white suburbs, his discovery that stand-up comedy could be “cathartic,” and his former work as a CBS News reporter covering the Trump campaign. In the foreword, Hasan Minhaj rightly says that Deb “goes well beyond the typical, ‘Hey, my parents wanted me to get straight A’s’ model minority narrative.” As the author discusses his travel from Kolkata to Agra and beyond, the book often resembles a rougher-around-the-edges version of a Bill Bryson travelogue, featuring a wisecracking tone that sometimes turns sophomoric. (Deb’s first reaction to the Taj Mahal: “Holy shit. It’s right there. Holy shit. It’s right there. IT’S RIGHT THERE.”) Memoirs by children of immigrants often fault clueless parents; this one is refreshing for Deb’s realization that—whatever his elders’ missteps—he needed “to take some responsibility for my part in our family’s disconnect” for things to change.

A sympathetic portrait of South Asians who are neither crazy and rich nor humorless nerds.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293676-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

NIGHT

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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