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MESSAGE FROM AN UNKNOWN CHINESE MOTHER

STORIES OF LOSS AND LOVE

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

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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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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