Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China's Gulag Paperback – Apr 3 1995
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In April 1960, Chinese Communist authorities arrested Harry Wu, the son of a well-to-do Shanghai banker. He was cast into a prison camp and, though never formally charged or tried, he spent the next nineteen years in a hellish netherworld of grinding labor, systematic starvation, and torture. Bitter Winds is the powerful story of Harry Wu's imprisonment and survival, of extraordinary acts of courage, and of unforgettable heroism.
From Publishers Weekly
In this eloquent memoir, Wu recalls his 19 years in Chinese labor camps. Though a middle-class college student, he was initially a patriotic Communist, but he soon ran afoul of the thought police. Hoping to flee the country in 1959, he was denounced as an "enemy of the revolution." The book, written with Wakeman, coauthor of To the Storm: The Odyssey of a Revolutionary Chinese Woman , focuses primarily on Wu's first decade as a prisoner struggling against starvation, seeing others succumb and learning a brutal survival ethic from fellow inmates. It is an intimate story of bravery and tragedy, including details about hallucinations, torture and the loss of comrades. The Cultural Revolution led to Wu's transfer to a mine, where he stayed for 10 years. There, he began to carve out a life, marrying a woman who later betrayed him. Six years after his release in 1979, he left for the U.S., where he is now a resident scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. An epilogue briefly describes Wu's continuing heroism: in 1991, he returned to China and surreptitiously filmed labor camps for the TV program 60 Minutes.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Similar to "Son of the Revolution," this book begins with the anti-rightist movement. Harry Wu was imprisoned in 1960, and not released until 1979, so he almost completely missed the Cultural Revolution. There is mention of that period in this book, of course, but not the level of discussion that you find in other books which focus more specifically on the ten year period (1966-1976) that caused so much pain for the people of China. The connection between the anti-rightist campaign and the Cultural Revolution is a sensitive issue, but it does need to be explored, because it opens our minds to the possibility that the ¡°trouble¡± began before 1966. In other words, there were significant factors prior to the Cultural Revolution which set the stage for it.
That out of the way, we can focus on what this book is about¡ªthe prison life of someone who never should have been in prison. That is the center around which every other part of the story revolves. So how good a job does this book do of sticking to that subject? For the most part, I give it high marks. I think this book does a very good job of pointing out the flaw in a system which incriminated citizens who were in no way a threat to society. Unfortunately, the book goes off on a tangent toward the end, and there seems to be more discussion about the prison system in China as a general topic for discussion.Read more ›
More than a few of the horrors he documents have a frightening familiarity. Anyone familiar with the opinion-controlling practices currently at place Ivy League colleges will see an eerie counterpart to China's universities in the late 1950. Harry Wu writes of "the official encouragement of divergent opinions" as the nation transformed over to socialism. Like the modern diversity fad, the semantics did not match the policy. "Divergent opinions" yielded blind devotion to the Communist state, just as diversity training demands the surrender of individuality in favor of group labels and a collective mentality. Hostility to religion has become chic among the U.S. hoi polloi which also corresponds to China's ferociously enforced atheism. As a boy Harry Wu attended a Catholic School, but with little warning the nuns and priests were forcefully expelled from China.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Unbelievable memoir, one that stays with you and perhaps changes your perspective on life. Harry Wu brings a voice to those many Chinese who, arrested often without cause, spent... Read morePublished on Oct. 23 2003
I had the pleasure of having coffee with Mr. Harry Wu one evening. Hearing him talk about China over that cup of coffee was a moving experience that I will never forget. Read morePublished on Dec 5 1999
Bitter Winds is Harry Wu's convincing story of his 19 years in the Red Chinese gulag, the government's slave labor camp system for political dissidents and common criminals. Read morePublished on Oct. 9 1998