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 rousing, suspenseful adventure tale.

MADHOUSE AT THE END OF THE EARTH

THE BELGICA'S JOURNEY INTO THE DARK ANTARCTIC NIGHT

A harrowing expedition to Antarctica, recounted by Departures senior features editor Sancton, who has reported from every continent on the planet.

On Aug. 16, 1897, the steam whaler Belgica set off from Belgium with young  Adrien de Gerlache as commandant. Thus begins Sancton’s riveting history of exploration, ingenuity, and survival. The commandant’s inexperienced, often unruly crew, half non-Belgian, included scientists, a rookie engineer, and first mate Roald Amundsen, who would later become a celebrated polar explorer. After loading a half ton of explosive tonite, the ship set sail with 23 crew members and two cats. In Rio de Janeiro, they were joined by Dr. Frederick Cook, a young, shameless huckster who had accompanied Robert Peary as a surgeon and ethnologist on an expedition to northern Greenland. In Punta Arenas, four seamen were removed for insubordination, and rats snuck onboard. In Tierra del Fuego, the ship ran aground for a while. Sancton evokes a calm anxiety as he chronicles the ship’s journey south. On Jan. 19, 1898, near the South Shetland Islands, the crew spotted the first icebergs. Rough waves swept someone overboard. Days later, they saw Antarctica in the distance. Glory was “finally within reach.” The author describes the discovery and naming of new lands and the work of the scientists gathering specimens. The ship continued through a perilous, ice-littered sea, as the commandant was anxious to reach a record-setting latitude. On March 6, the Belgica became icebound. The crew did everything they could to prepare for a dark, below-freezing winter, but they were wracked with despair, suffering headaches, insomnia, dizziness, and later, madness—all vividly capture by Sancton. The sun returned on July 22, and by March 1899, they were able to escape the ice. With a cast of intriguing characters and drama galore, this history reads like fiction and will thrill fans of Endurance and In the Kingdom of Ice.

A rousing, suspenseful adventure tale.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984824-33-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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