A candidly moving and historically thoughtful account.

AMERICAN DREAMER

HOW I ESCAPED COMMUNIST VIETNAM AND BUILT A SUCCESSFUL LIFE IN AMERICA

A debut memoir recounts life under Communist rule in Vietnam and a man’s daring escape to America.

Tran’s life was always shadowed by the political tempestuousness of his native Vietnam. Born in a small coastal village in 1950, he was later forced to flee with his family, transformed into a refugee at the age of 4. The author’s father, Nguyen Dinh Muu—he eventually had to change his name—joined the Viet Minh nationalist cause but abandoned it after it took an aggressive Communist turn, compelling him to relocate out of fear of retribution. Tran and his family would have to move yet again, this time to Saigon, once the war between the northern and southern portions of the country finally caught up with them. But the author’s father, seeing promise in Tran’s aptitude, rigorously prepared him for academic success and a way out. Later, the author won a scholarship to attend college in the United States. He studied at Pacific University in Oregon and the University of California at Berkeley and was confronted with a terrible choice, poignantly depicted here: Return to Vietnam as required, or defy the terms of his scholarship. He chose to fly back, confident that harmony and stability were achieved with the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 and committed to marrying his girlfriend, Thuy. But the minute he returned, his passport was confiscated, and for the next four years, he languished under Communist rule, always looking for a way out. Tran writes simply, even journalistically, describing in vividly powerful detail the horror of the despotism he survived. In the airport the day he returned to Vietnam, “the military presence was immediately palpable. All around me, I saw hundreds of sandbags, barbed wire, and soldiers armed with M-16 rifles….Within seconds of arriving, I knew I had gone from the Land of the Free to the Land Under Military Control.” Still, this is not a dour lamentation but rather an inspiring story of personal triumph. The author not only fled Vietnam in a wooden fishing boat and made it back to the United States, he also ultimately prospered both personally and financially. Furthermore, Tran’s book—written with Fields-Meyer—delivers an astute synopsis of a chaotic period in Vietnamese history and an intelligent commentary on the perspectives of Americans during that time.

A candidly moving and historically thoughtful account.

Pub Date: June 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-945398-02-5

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Pacific University Press

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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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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