A candid memoir of the author's participation in China's Cultural Revolution—as well as a cautionary tale about youthful patriotic excess. Daughter of two dedicated Communists, Zhai (now a teacher in Canada) was a high-school student when the Cultural Revolution began. But even before that cataclysm, she explains, all aspects of Chinese life had been politicized. Young urban schoolchildren had to help with the harvest; indoctrination was incessant; and status was determined by one's family's political standing: As the child of low-ranking ``common office staff,'' the author was ignored by her teachers until her father was promoted. Ambitious, and determined to be a ``progressive''—the approved ranking—she was an ideal candidate for membership in the Red Guard when, in 1966, Mao set in motion the events that led not to only years of turmoil but to the destruction of a whole generation of gifted young Chinese. Zhai chillingly describes how, as a 15-year-old, she exhorted her school's detachment of Red Guards to root out class enemies; conducted humiliating self-criticism sessions of faculty and neighbors; and participated in fatal beatings. Her zeal was soon tempered not only by growing personal disquiet but by her political disillusionment, as she saw the Red Guards purged and replaced by even more revolutionary groups. By now, all education had stopped, and the author was sent with classmates to work with the peasants. Back-breaking work and bad food affected her health, and she despaired of ever going to college, since students were expected to live in the fields permanently. In time, though, Zhai moved on to factory work and was nominated for higher education. She admits that she was lucky—and that many of her peers weren't so fortunate. A searing tale of a regime that, in the name of patriotism, cynically manipulated the ideals of its most vulnerable members and then effectively ruined them—and a brutally frank mea culpa as well.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-939149-83-4

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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