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

THE PROMISE

TALES OF LOVE AND LOSS IN CHINA

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. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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