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THE PROMISE

TALES OF LOVE AND LOSS IN CHINA

A minor but graceful work that restores a lost generation to history.

Love in a time of totalitarianism.

“The past century has seen more upheaval than any other time in the 5,000-year-old history of Chinese civilization,” writes Xinran (Buy Me the Sky: The Remarkable Truth of China's One-Child Generations, 2015, etc.), a London-based journalist whose books have focused on social mores and family life in her homeland. “The ways in which people show love for each other have also changed in the face of war and cultural development.” One such change is an emphasis on “talking love.” Since public displays of affection are not commonplace and privacy is difficult to secure, it is a way of falling in love by conversing and negotiating. So the dictionary says, though Xinran insists it is far less clinical than all that. By way of illustration, she examines the course of a single family over a century, beginning with the marriage of a man and woman in 1919 who then went on to produce nine children whom they named after favorite colors: Orange, Green, Cyan, and so forth. Getting to their stories, as Xinran writes, required navigating difficult tangles of emotion; so psychically painful were many of the events of war and revolution that older Chinese people invent less terrible pasts for themselves, a comfort to the memory but one that weighs against historical accuracy. Of the pre-revolutionary generation, those memories are of a country that no longer exists. The child named Red, for instance, was contracted in marriage when she was just 9: “My marriage sentence began that day,” she tells Xinran quietly, later remembering an argument from long ago over whether to believe newspaper accounts of the Korean War. Relates Green, three of the siblings went abroad, three remained in Communist China, and “three met death before their time.” Their descendants now live much different lives, including a young woman who studied in the U.S. and dates an American whom she met there: "Doesn’t it sound just like a love story from a movie?”

A minor but graceful work that restores a lost generation to history.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78831-362-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: I.B. Tauris

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


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  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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