Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962
This extraordinary and important book is based on 20 years of research on the horrific failure of the Great Leap Forward in China in the mid-20th century. It is written by a Beijing-based Chinese journalist. The highly readable English translation is a condensation of a longer Chinese text published in Hong Kong (though not in most of China). Yang describes the Great Famine which killed more than 30 million Chinese. Chapters detailing the fates of ordinary people alternate with political analysis. The author’s courage and emotional investment make the book compelling and hard to put down. How, he demands, did these things happen? He concludes the culprit was a totalitarian political system which stripped most Chinese of any effective way to oppose policies that became murderous. One closes this book shaken by the panorama of suffering and, like Yang, hoping that China peacefully evolves into a full-fledged democracy.