A radio presenter in China until her move to London in 1997, Xinran (China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation, 2009,...

MESSAGE FROM AN UNKNOWN CHINESE MOTHER

STORIES OF LOSS AND LOVE

A heartbreaking examination of the reasons why Chinese women give up their girls for adoption.

A radio presenter in China until her move to London in 1997, Xinran (China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation, 2009, etc.) was stunned by the ignorance of Westerners regarding the Chinese, especially Chinese women. Separated from her parents during the Cultural Revolution, the author hardly knew her mother, and these stories of mothers who abandoned their girls form an especially personal journey for her. By the end of 2010, there will have been more than 120,000 Chinese orphans (mostly girls) adopted worldwide, nearly 80,000 in America. The rate of adoption has steadily increased largely since the economic reforms began to kick in by 1992, though by 2006 the Chinese government had put the brakes on its adoption policy. In traditional farming communities, girls have been abandoned since ancient times, as a girl’s work is worth less in terms of farm labor and she cannot inherit the family line. The one-child-per-family policy, drawn up in 1979, was also carried out crudely, mostly in eastern China’s more urban areas, and everybody wanted a boy. Moreover, Xinran found, sex education was so inadequate at the same time that Western mores exploded in the 1990s that children of unwed mothers were routinely abandoned. These are horrific stories, involving panic-stricken young mothers abandoning newborns wherever they can; grief-stricken mothers who try to kill themselves by swallowing pesticides; the routine act of “doing” an infant girl in peasant communities by throwing her in a slop pail; infanticide that is systematically carried out under the full knowledge of police and hospitals; and the desperate straits of the orphanages. Xinran’s personal attempt to adopt a girl only to have her vanish into the Chinese bureaucracy makes for a poignant ending.

Pub Date: March 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-1089-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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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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