Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China's Gulag
NON FICTION BOOK REVIEW
Title: Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China's Gulag;
by: Harry Wu and Carolyn Wakeman; John Wiley & Sons Inc.;
ISBN: 0-471-55645-9; Hardcover, 304 pages; $29.95;
Reviewer: A.T.Connellan, "This highly recommended book
is a chilling chronicle of inhumanity that leaves us with a warning.
Tyranny is just one failure to vote away."
Wu lays bare the brutal truth
Harry Wu was a 23 year old student when he was arrested in 1960.
The charge? There wasn't one, and he didn't receive the "benefit"
of China's "verdict first, trial second" justice system. He was
considered a political dissident, or "rightist," so he just disappeared,
for 19 years, into the hell that is the Chinese penal system. Harry
Wu's story is guaranteed to disturb your sleep for months to come.
The most recent of the "Beijing Books," Bitter Winds is the perfect
complement to two earlier works; Quelling The People, by Timothy
Brook, and Black Hands of Beijing, from George Black and Robin
Munro, both of which focused on the events of June 1989.
That savage butchery in and around Tiananmen Square, triggered
worldwide exposure of the barbarous abuse of human rights by
China's Maoist dictatorship. In spite of sophisticated spin-doctoring
by Chinese authorities this literary triad has pulled back the cover
and laid bare the truth.
60 Minutes whetted my appetite for this book with an expose of
Chinese prison labor, and it's products. They showed that rather
than crime and punishment, forced labor is an instrument of
economic policy. In 1991 Harry Wu returned to China posing as a
U.S. businessman buying prison goods. He guided the cameras,
and surreptitiously filmed the sites and people significant to this book.
That television program was the tip of the iceberg, this is the mass.
This account will leave you burning with anger, and nevermore able
to blithely accept "Made in the Peoples Republic of China" as
anything other than an indictment. You won't want them for a trading
Bitter Winds can best be described as an assisted autobiographical
account. In the preface co-author Carolyn Wakeman commits herself
to "...reproduce the flavor and the rhythms of Harry's voice..." She
keeps her promise, and it is a tribute to her skill, that Wu's spirit
shines through her words.
At the most desperate time in his imprisonment, he makes this
touching observation on coexistence; "All those animals, driven
inside in pairs by the flood, had lived side by side for forty days...
managed to reach shore safely...they must have aided each other."
The eerie, understated style clearly expresses the helplessness of
the incarcerated Chinese.
This highly recommended book is a chilling chronicle of inhumanity
that leaves us with a warning. Tyranny is just one failure to vote away.
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