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. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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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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