Molly's Reviews > Things That Must Not Be Forgotten: A Childhood in Wartime China

Things That Must Not Be Forgotten by Michael David Kwan
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Apr 17, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: china, memoir, 1930s, 1940s
Read from April 05 to 12, 2010

This memoir won the 2000 Kiriyama Book Prize for nonfiction. I have read quite a few memoirs of others who survived this time period in China's history, and with all due respect to Mr. Kwan, his experience was not one of the more horrendous. Author seemed somewhat arrogant and frankly not that likeable, especially when he is describing his activities as a member of the Boy Scouts who were, at least at that time, "more like the Hitler Youth...an organization of young fanatics" who did some rather nasty cruel things. And he related these events with no real sense of regret. So I believe his motivation to write this book was more to defend his father's/family's reputation concerning alleged conspiracy with the Japanese, rather than out of any real sympathy with the suffering endured by the Chinese people, which quite frankly he didn't seem to relate to that much. A note of interest, Mr. Kwan collapsed on stage from an apparent heart attack at the Victoria, BC, Writer's Festival in 2001 while reading an excerpt from this book and died two days later. Rather eerie.
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David Vernon I don't think that Michael Kwan was competing to have the most horrendous childhood. The fact that he comes over as arrogant and not likeable shows the care that he has taken to write a biography that isn't whitewashed. Is the purpose of a memoir to show regret or sympathy? Or is it to try and tell a history? I certainly don't feel that he wrote the book for any purpose other than to put down for posterity his story and frankly he has done this very well.


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