A book full of harrowing revelations of systematic injustice in China and the disturbing involvement of its foreign enablers.

IN THE CAMPS

CHINA'S HIGH-TECH PENAL COLONY

A professor of international studies offers more chilling evidence of the “smart” camps in northwestern China, designed to restrict, punish, and ultimately exterminate the Indigenous population.

Byler, who managed to visit the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region under strict surveillance and has friends who were “disappeared,” draws on dozens of interviews with Kazakh, Uyghur, and Hui former detainees, camp workers, and system technicians to tell their horrific stories. The author first grounds readers in an evenhanded history of the region, noting the relative autonomy that the Uyghurs used to enjoy in the south; this began to change in the 1990s as China shifted toward an export-driven market economy. The Uyghurs, who are Muslim, protested the unequal economic system, and their unrest was marked as “terrorism” by the Han authorities. Byler draws on extensive ethnographic research in Xinjiang and Kazakhstan between 2011 and 2020, revealing that Chinese authorities have placed as many as 1.5 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Hui into a system of “reeducation” camps since 2017. One young student from the University of Washington tried to visit her family in China and endured months of dehumanizing treatment. An Uzbek teacher of Chinese was enlisted to teach groups of the “uneducated,” though she quickly realized that they were Muslim like her and imprisoned for no reason other than their religion. She spoke of feeling “two-faced” at having to play both roles at the same time and laments the toll it took on her health—as it did other of Byler’s subjects. American firms are complicit: The author emphasizes that the technology used in “smart” surveillance systems used to contain and transform Muslim populations in northwest China are gleaned from Silicon Valley face-recognition tools perfected and exported by companies like Megvii, with deep connections to Microsoft, taking these systems of control to new levels of scale and intensity.

A book full of harrowing revelations of systematic injustice in China and the disturbing involvement of its foreign enablers.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7359136-2-9

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A valuable contribution to our understanding of one of history’s most vital figures.

THE PRISON LETTERS OF NELSON MANDELA

An epistolary memoir of Nelson Mandela’s prison years.

From August 1962 to February 1990, Mandela (1918-2013) was imprisoned by the apartheid state of South Africa. During his more than 27 years in prison, the bulk of which he served on the notorious Robben Island prison off the shores of Cape Town, he wrote thousands of letters to family and friends, lawyers and fellow African National Congress members, prison officials, and members of the government. Heavily censored for both content and length, letters from Robben Island and South Africa’s other political prisons did not always reach their intended targets; when they did, the censorship could make them virtually unintelligible. To assemble this vitally important collection, Venter (A Free Mind: Ahmed Kathrada's Notebook from Robben Island, 2006, etc.), a longtime Johannesburg-based editor and journalist, pored through these letters in various public and private archives across South Africa and beyond as well as Mandela’s own notebooks, in which he transcribed versions of these letters. The result is a necessary, intimate portrait of the great leader. The man who emerges is warm and intelligent and a savvy, persuasive, and strategic thinker. During his life, Mandela was a loving husband and father, a devotee of the ANC’s struggle, and capable of interacting with prominent statesmen and the ANC’s rank and file. He was not above flattery or hard-nosed steeliness toward his captors as suited his needs, and he was always yearning for freedom, not only—or even primarily—for himself, but rather for his people, a goal that is the constant theme of this collection and was the consuming vision of his entire time as a prisoner. Venter adds tremendous value with his annotations and introductions to the work as a whole and to the book’s various sections.

A valuable contribution to our understanding of one of history’s most vital figures.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63149-117-7

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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This rewarding literary Baedeker will inspire readers to discover new places.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 BOOKS

A modern-day Phileas Fogg circumnavigates the globe in books.

Damrosch, chair of the department of comparative literature at Harvard and founder of its Institute for World Literature, mimics Jules Verne’s ambitious itinerary of world travel from east to west as he delves into 16 geographical groups of five books “that have responded to times of crises and deep memories of trauma,” navigating “our world’s turbulent water with the aid of literature’s map of imaginary times and places.” As he moves along, delving into plots, characters, and themes, and both prose and poetry, over centuries, he creates a vast, fascinating latticework of books within books. He begins in London, with “one of the most local of novels” and “one of the most worldly books ever written,” Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, which depicts a city that “bears more than a passing reference to Conrad’s heart of darkness.” Paris and Krakow are followed by “Venice–Florence,” with the old (Marco Polo, Dante, and Boccaccio) and the modern, Italo Calvino’s “magical, unclassifiable” Invisible Cities. Just like Damrosch’s own book, Calvino’s work views “the modern world through multiple lenses of worlds elsewhere.” Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red is “a vibrant hybrid that re-creates a vanished Ottoman past for present purposes,” while Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies “portrays life in a fully globalized Oman.” Traveling along at a brisk pace, Damrosch takes us to the Congo, Israel/Palestine, Calcutta and “Shanghai–Beijing,” before arriving in Tokyo, where he examines Japan’s “greatest, and strangest” writer, Yukio Mishima, and the “incommensurabilityof ancient and modern eras, Asian and European traditions, that fuels” his work. Brazil is home to one of the “most worldly of local writers,” Clarice Lispector, whose “remarkable short story collection,” Family Ties, the author admires. In Robert McCloskey’s One Morning in Maine, Damrosch fondly revisits a book he enjoyed as a child. Other writers serving as stops on his international tour include Joyce, Atwood, Voltaire, Rushdie, and Soyinka.

This rewarding literary Baedeker will inspire readers to discover new places.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29988-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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