Splendidly researched and craftily written.

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THE LONG MARCH

THE TRUE HISTORY OF COMMUNIST CHINA’S FOUNDING MYTH

Documentary filmmaker Shuyun interviews aged veterans about their struggles against the Nationalists, the weather, the terrain and each other as she retraces the two-year, 8,000-mile trek that “remains the enduring emblem of China.”

The mythic stature of the Long March is a given for the author, a Beijing native who now divides her time between that city and London. Throughout her remarkable text, she recites songs she learned in childhood, alludes to commemorative films she saw and recalls lessons her teachers taught her about the hardships endured by Mao and his fellow communists during their exodus from southern bases overrun by Nationalist troops to China’s barren Yellow Plateau in the northwest. In 2004, 70 years after the Long March began, Shuyun decided to follow in the Marchers’ footsteps. Traveling by car, bus, train and on foot, she found survivors whose stories cracked open the carapace of a myth still assiduously nourished by museums and curators. Bright-eyed idealists did not flow in torrents toward the Red Army, whose vicious recruiting practices were more reminiscent of the press gangs once employed by the British Royal Navy. The slightest hint of disloyalty meant death in a fighting force racked by brutal purges. Shuyun begins each chapter with an account of a particular moment during the March, told from the point-of-view of a participant she interviewed, then paints the background, supplies the details and records her impressions on visiting the sites today. Much is disturbing. The Red Army stole vast stores of food and supplies from local people; in one instance, it brutally attacked a monastery. Soldiers suffered from starvation, disease, frostbite and wounds; as they crossed rivers, the waters ran red with their blood. The author emerges from her odyssey with a deepened admiration for the Marchers, who managed to survive not just their enemies but also their leaders.

Splendidly researched and craftily written.

Pub Date: June 12, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-52024-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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