Review of Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road by Rob Schmitz

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About Street of Eternal Happiness

Modern Shanghai: a global city in the midst of a renaissance, where dreamers arrive each day to partake in a mad torrent of capital, ideas, and opportunity. Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz is one of them. He immerses himself in his neighborhood, forging deep relationships with ordinary people who see in the city’s sleek skyline a brighter future, and a chance to rewrite their destinies. There’s Zhao, whose path from factory floor to shopkeeper is sidetracked by her desperate measures to ensure a better future for her sons. Down the street lives Auntie Fu, a fervent capitalist forever trying to improve herself with religion and get-rich-quick schemes while keeping her skeptical husband at bay. Up a flight of stairs, musician and café owner CK sets up shop to attract young dreamers like himself, but learns he’s searching for something more. As Schmitz becomes more involved in their lives, he makes surprising discoveries which untangle the complexities of modern China: A mysterious box of letters that serve as a portal to a family’s – and country’s – dark past, and an abandoned neighborhood where fates have been violently altered by unchecked power and greed.

A tale of 21st century China, Street of Eternal Happiness profiles China’s distinct generations through multifaceted characters who illuminate an enlightening, humorous, and at times heartrending journey along the winding road to the Chinese Dream. Each story adds another layer of humanity and texture to modern China, a tapestry also woven with Schmitz’s insight as a foreign correspondent. The result is an intimate and surprising portrait that dispenses with the tired stereotypes of a country we think we know, immersing us instead in the vivid stories of the people who make up one of the world’s most captivating cities.

My Review

I loved the eclectic mix of people Schmitz introduced. We discover Shanghai and China’s history past and present with the future ambiguous.

Schmitz possess a casual yet sharp writing style sucking the reader into the lives of the people depicted. The various stories run from heartbreaking to inspiring. The colorful cast each has a very different view of their country and its history based on generation and political views. CK an entrepreneur determined to succeed, Zhao a smart businesswoman attempting to marry off her son, Auntie Fu caught up in a Ponzi scheme – all scratching and clawing in modern China. Nice comparison between US and China both in similarities and differences. Each person pursuing their dream and each dream is as different as each person. Shanghai offers much yet carving your path is quite a challenge. Fascinating and absorbing read.

About Rob SchmitzA1-GGWtjoEL._UX250_

Rob Schmitz is the China correspondent for American Public Media’s Marketplace, the largest business news program in the U.S. with more than 12 million listeners a week. He has reported on a range of topics illustrating China’s role in the global economy, including trade, politics, the environment, education, and labor. In 2012, Schmitz exposed fabrications in Mike Daisey’s account of Apple’s Chinese supply chain on This American Life, and his report headlined that show’s much-discussed “Retraction” episode. The work was a finalist for the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. He has won two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an award from the Education Writers Association for his reporting on China. Schmitz first arrived to the country in 1996 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Sichuan province. His Marketplace stories can be heard at http://www.marketplace.org/people/rob-schmitz. This is his first book.

Expected publication: May 17th 2016 by Crown

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Review: The Removers by Andrew Meredith

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About The Removers

A dark, poignant, and emotionally brave coming-of-age memoir: the story of a young man who, by handling the dead, makes peace with the living.

My Review

Interesting read, taking me by surprise, certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. This was a coming of age story, exploring the bruises left behind of a dysfunctional family. The funeral industry was part of the narrative but not a large portion, enough to provide a glimpse into body removal, cremation.

Meredith has a way with words, his writing is poetically mesmerizing. He’s very open and candid into the turmoil existing within his family as well as bearing his own emotions and stumbles as a result of his family mess during his formative years to adulthood.

As much as I enjoy Meredith’s writing, his veering from one topic to the next jamming the mismatched topics together randomly was frustrating. One moment you would be reading of the cremation oven and immediately read of his father’s indiscretion, this zig zag pattern continuing throughout the narrative. Distracting and disruptive.

Candid memoir from a very gifted writer. I look forward to reading more from this talented writer. His lyrical writing alone makes this worth perusing.

About Andrew Meredithandrew-meredith-431977058

Andrew Meredith has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo and from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He received an MFA in Fiction from UNC-Greensboro. The Removers is his first book.

Published July 15th 2014 by Scribner

Review: I Am a Bacha Posh: My Life as a Woman Living as a Man in Afghanistan by Ukmina Manoori, Peter E Chianchiano Jr. (Translator)

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About I Am a Bacha Posh

“You will be a son, my daughter.” With these stunning words Ukmina learned that she was to spend her childhood as a boy.

In Afghanistan there is a widespread practice of girls dressing as boys to play the role of a son. These children are called bacha posh: literally “girls dressed as boys.” This practice offers families the freedom to allow their child to shop and work—and in some cases, it saves them from the disgrace of not having a male heir. But in adolescence, religion restores the natural law. The girls must marry, give birth, and give up their freedom.

Ukmina decided to confront social and family pressure and keep her menswear. This brave choice paved the way for an extraordinary destiny: she wages war against the Soviets, assists the mujaheddin and ultimately commands the respect of all whom she encounters. She eventually becomes one of the elected council members of her province.

But freedom always has a price. For “Ukmina warrior” that price was her life as a woman. This is a stunning and brave memoir about a little known practice that will challenge your perceptions about gender and the courage it takes to live your life to the fullest.

My Review

Ukima’s brief story is fascinating. I agree with her peers in their estimation of Ukima among the bravest of women in Afghanistan, you will agree as she shares her life from childhood to adulthood living as a bacha posh.

The practice of bacha posh is discussed focusing on the challenges girls face from carrying themselves as boys to returning to life as a female, the transition often troublesome.

The book covers a generous slice of Afghanistan history, culture and traditions.

Excellent memoir demonstrating the length for women to taste freedom against the long arm of Afghanistan history.

Published October 14th 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing (first published October 7th 2014)

Review: Jailhouse Doc: A Doctor in the County Jail by William Wright

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William Wright gave up a suburban practice as an ear surgeon to become the doctor at Colorado’s maximum-security prison.

Jailhouse Doc follows Dr. Wright and his struggles with scamming inmates, corporate bureaucrats, and a sheriff who wants to be a doctor.

Peek behind the bars at the operations of a city jail and the daily battles to deliver medical care to a population on the edge.

Dr Wright is as candid as candid can be. Enlightening to read his perspective on the prison system along with his correctional medicine experience. He explains what lured him to correctional medicine as well as the main cause of exiting. Describing his interactions with inmates is raw yet rather compelling in a few cases. The reader will find the jailed receive thorough medical care, however, upon their release few can afford to continue with care, also many deal with addiction, lack of a proper diet, in other words resources are limited indirectly and/or directly. Dr Wright’s concerns are valid and his personal views, opinions and suggestions give you plenty to mull over.

Dr Wright’s tone is rather harsh, snarky, sarcastic, as you turn the pages and read until the end you find his directness and no-nonsense manner provide the tools required to deal with the more creative and manipulative inmates. I enjoyed his brusqueness and complete honesty. Admittedly his wit left me chuckling out loud, not taking away from the more serious instances.

A solid glimpse into the life of a doctor tending to those in a correctional facility as beauracracy, a power-hungry sheriff poses more of a challenge than the inmates.
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Paperback, 166 pages
Published September 17th 2014 by Wise Media Group (first published September 10th 2014)
ISBN13: 9781629670317

Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India by Amana Fontanella-Khan

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There is a female ‘gang’ to be reckoned with in India. This ‘gang’ is known as the Pink Sari Gang comprised of numerous women serving females in need of assistance and/or support. Their formidable leader and founder, the memorable Sampat Pal.

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The book explains the flagrant corruption in politics and law enforcement, the ill treatment of women, and the poverty suffered by provincial citizens. These deep rooted issues have been plaguing India for some time, nothing new to the reader or anyone aware of India.

Sampat Pal is memorable. We learn of her as well as her story in the creation of her ‘gang.’ She’s brash, lacking a filter and often resorts to physical means. Arrogant and fearless, she uses her position and power to help others but her vigilante tactics leave you questioning her approach. I am thrilled women are being heard in India, there is a loud voice supporting women but the amount of aggression demonstrated leaves me asking Is this the ONLY way for females to be heard? The only means to achieve equality?

Interesting story, wonderful concept but you will question Sampat Pal as well as her tactics. I hope this is the beginning for women not only limited to India but world wide to be treated equally and their voices heard, encouraging the respect woman are due. Perhaps a brusque and forceful manner is the only way to break through the oppression females face, this juror is still deliberating.


Paperback, 284 pages
Published August 25th 2014 by W. W. Norton & Company
ISBN13: 9780393349474

Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam’s Madame Nhu by Monique Brinson Demery

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I found this book revealing a tiny bit more of the elusive and very private Madame Nhu. I seriously doubt we will ever know this woman, and frankly I believe she orchestrated this plan. She strikes me as a woman thoroughly taking pleasure in being an enigma, mysterious to the end and even loathed.

Demery confirms this woman possessed a thirst for power, her authoritarian demeanor very apparent, and barbed tongue gained her the title of “Dragon Lady.” She never allowed males to control or dictate to her, her actions were of her own accord. After the assassination of her husband and brother-in-law, she entered seclusion for over thirty years, again encouraging the veil of mystique and curiosity for many.

Demery attempts to connect the dots of Madame Nhu’s life through her self imposed isolation with questionable success. Nhu supposedly granted Demery access to her diaries, obviously a connection developed between the two.

I doubt the essence of Madame Nhu will ever be known, I doubt those closest to her ever fully understood this formidable creature or her talents, honestly I don’t believe she ever revealed herself to anyone fully, only she knew her authentic self.

Interesting, shedding light on a controversial woman during a turbulent and chaotic time in history. Madame Nhu will forever remain an unappealing question mark.


Hardcover, 280 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2013)
ISBN13: 9781610392815

The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour, and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News by Sheila Weller

imageDiane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour, three women climbing and conquering in the male dominated field of news anchoring are featured in their personal and professional lives. Their lives differ greatly, each approached their careers differently, however, all three equally driven.

Personal sacrifices, issues to deal with are presented and explored. Their choices suffering criticism, unlike their male counterparts. Women almost always face the dilemma of career vs family, men rarely deal with this predicament suffering zero criticism and backlash. The information Weller provides stems from interviews with friends, coworkers, adversaries, acquaintances in a rather detailed manner, at times clashing with previously known information/stories which Weller kindly addresses.

A little too ‘dishy’ for my tastes, however it was interesting to read of females scratching and clawing, along with career struggles in a male dominated field, also educational regarding the news market in total.

A story of three very driven women, three women conquering with their share of personal costs. Challenges, victories, loss and sacrifices all offered to the reader.

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Published September 30th 2014 by Penguin Press HC, The
Hardcover, 496 pages
ISBN13: 9781594204272
A copy provided in exchange for an honest review