This month’s selection is a reminder of history’s constant unravelling through the uncovering of memories held by personal archives, secret documents and unheard stories. Picks include Louisa Lim’s sharp lens on the collective amnesia surrounding the events in Tiananmen Square in The People’s Republic of Amnesia and the recently published first English translation of Leon Werth’s 33 days excavated by the ambitious Neversink Library. From James Angelos’ pertinent analysis of Greece’s fiscal situation and it’s wider social impacts in The Full Catastrophe to the scientific acknowledgement of aboriginal Australian knowledge and methodology surrounding land management in The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage, this month’s picks demonstrate the capacity of historical knowledge to emerge at radically different speeds.
The People’s Republic of amnesia : Tiananmen revisited / Louisa Lim.
“Despite its emergence from backward isolation into a dynamic world economic power, a quarter-century after the People’s Army crushed unarmed protestors [...] in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, the defining event of China’s modern history remains buried. [...] In The People’s Republic of Amnesia, NPR’s China correspondent Louisa Lim offers an insider’s account of this seminal tragedy, revealing the enormous impact it had on China and the reverberations still felt today.”– Provided by publisher.
33 days / Léon Werth ; with an introduction by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ; translated by Austin Denis Johnston.
“The first ever English publication of important French author Leon Werth. Restored here with the original introduction, long thought to be lost, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince. Story Locale: The road from Paris to the line just beyond Occupied France Series Overview: The Neversink Library champions books from around the world that have been overlooked, underappreciated, looked askance at, or foolishly ignored [...]” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The full catastrophe : travels among the new Greek ruins / James Angelos.
“A transporting, good-humored, and revealing account of Greece’s dire troubles, reported from the mountain villages, idyllic islands, and hardscrabble streets that define the country today. [...] With vivid character-driven narratives and engaging reporting that offers an immersive sense of place, he brings to life some of the causes of the country’s financial collapse, and examines the changes, some hopeful and others deeply worrisome, emerging in its aftermath.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The biggest estate on earth : how Aborigines made Australia / Bill Gammage.
“Reveals the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people in presettlement Australia. Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park, with extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands, and abundant wildlife. [...] Aboriginal people spent far less time and effort than Europeans in securing food and shelter, and this book reveals how. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires Australians now experience. With details of land-management strategies from around Australia, this book rewrites the history of the continent, with huge implications for today.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Buy me the sky : the remarkable truth of China’s one-child generations / Xinran ; translated by Esther Tyldesley and David Dobson.
With journalistic acumen and a novelist’s flair, Xinran tells the remarkable stories of men and women born in China after 1979 – the recent generations raised under China’s single-child policy. At a time when the country continues to transform at the speed of light, these generations of precious ‘one and onlies’ are burdened with expectation, yet have often been brought up without any sense of responsibility. [...] Through the fascinating stories of these only children, we catch a startling glimpse of the emerging face of China. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
My appeal to the world : in quest of truth and justice on behalf of the Tibetan people, 1961-2011 … / H.H. the Dalai Lama XIV ; presented by Sofia Stril-Rever ; translated from the French by Sebastian Houssiaux.
“His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is the foremost spokesperson for the people of the Tibetan Plateau [...] As a Buddhist monk, his main focus has been the spiritual life, and the leadership of his people in exile, ensuring their survival and preserving their unique Buddhist culture, while appealing to the world to stop the destruction of their homeland and the six million Tibetans oppressed within it.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Ravensbrück : life and death in Hitler’s concentration camp for women / Sarah Helm.
“A masterly and moving account of the most horrific hidden atrocity of World War II: Ravensbrück, the only Nazi concentration camp built for women. On a sunny morning in May 1939 a phalanx of 867 women [..] was marched through the woods fifty miles north of Berlin, driven on past a shining lake, then herded in through giant gates. [..] Far more than a catalog of atrocities, however, Ravensbrück is also a compelling account of what one survivor called “the heroism, superhuman tenacity, and exceptional willpower to survive.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The street of wonderful possibilities : Whistler, Wilde & Sargent in Tite Street / Devon Cox.
“A beautifully illustrated art history and cultural biography, The Street of Wonderful Possibilities focuses on one of the most influential artistic quarters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – London’s Tite Street, where a staggering amount of talent thrived between the 1870s and 1930s, including James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Oscar Wilde and John Singer Sargent. It provides a new, fresh perspective on legendary figures in British art and literature and explores the relationship between these artists and their living environment [...]” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Dancing with the enemy : the gripping story of the Jewish dance instructor who survived Auschwitz by teaching dance to the Nazis / Paul Glaser. Dancing with the Enemy: My Family’s Holocaust Secret
“Paul Glaser was an adult when he learned the truth about his heritage. Raised in a devout Roman Catholic home in the Netherlands, he had never known his father was Jewish and that their family had suffered great losses during the World War II. When Paul inquired, his father refused to provide details about the war, the camps, and especially Rosie, Paul’s estranged aunt [...] Rosie Glaser was a magnificent woman; despite everything, she remained hopeful, exuberant, and, most importantly, cunning [...]” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The last empire : the final days of the Soviet Union / Serhii Plokhy.
“On Christmas Day, 1991, President George H. W. Bush addressed the nation to declare an American victory in the Cold War: earlier that day Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned as the first and last Soviet president. [...] Plokhy’s detailed, authoritative account shows that it was only after the movement for independence of the republics had gained undeniable momentum on the eve of the Ukrainian vote for independence that fall that Bush finally abandoned Gorbachev to his fate.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)