With useful maps and stories within stories, this is an ingenious look at an often misunderstood country.




A Canadian scholar of Chinese history offers a fresh look at China’s engagement with the outside world over centuries in the form of 13 illustrative stories.

In this academic yet mostly accessible work, Brook makes two significant revisionist arguments about China and its history. First, he moves up China’s sense of being a unified state from the third century B.C.E., when it developed “dispersed kingdoms,” to the 13th century, when its occupation by the Mongol armies imbued it with a sense of military domination exercised through conquest. This was the self-important “Mongol Great State,” and every ruler since then has declared his regime to be a “Great State,” according to Brook. Second, the author argues that, contrary to the myth of Chinese isolation from the world, the nation was very much aware of the “10,000 countries” that lay outside it, as the author relays through fascinating stories of contact. These involve a wide variety of protagonists that may be unfamiliar to many readers, including the “Persian Blue Princess” whom Khubilai Khan recruited for the Mongol throne; Korean emissaries who blew off course and landed in China; the Italian Jesuit missionaries who spread Renaissance ideas; and the droves of European traders descending on ports such as Canton. Indeed, Brook reminds us, China has frequently endured waves of conquest and occupation by “foreign” armies, from the marauding Mongol hordes led by Khan, who established the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), to the subsequent rise of the Ming Dynasty until 1644, when the Manchus swept through and established the Qing Great State, which collapsed in 1911. Brook then takes us all the way up to the early 21st century, noting how “China’s relationship with the world will continue to change.” The author also turns up intriguing new DNA evidence that the plague had likely emerged from Central Asia and devastated Chinese cities far earlier than it arrived in Europe.

With useful maps and stories within stories, this is an ingenious look at an often misunderstood country.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295098-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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