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Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China's Gulag Paperback – April 3, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (April 3, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471114251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471114253
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,423,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is a terrifically written book.
V. L. Hart
It is also a story of survival , and the unbelievable odds under which Harry Wu survived.
Gary Selikow
This is a book that I will not forget and will urge friends to read.
P. Lambert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
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. Committed without trial, charges or definite sentence, Harry survived years of senseless political indoctrination, forced labor, beatings, the brutality of fellow prisoners, cold, and starvation. His only crimes were his status as a member of the pre-revolutionary Chinese middle class and his candid criticism of the Communist Party done at the party's invitation. The difference between the terror suffered by Harry and the Stalinist death camps is that China's concentration camps continue to this day. Why didn't someone do something about the Nazi and Soviet camps? Why does the U.S. State Dept. ignore the Red Chinese murders occurring today? Today's leaders of China are undoubtedly proud of their camp system, patterned after that of their erstwhile ally Jos. Stalin, which was revealed in books like Victor Herman's Coming Out of the Ice and the recent account Man Is Wolf to Man.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By P. Lambert on May 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've been very aware of the Holocaust and all its horrors and injustices. I have seen movies, read articles, read books; all the information is there. But the Cultural Revolution? I only knew that it happened in China - I wasn't even sure what years it occured. I had no concept of its irrational and unjust practices. No idea of the horrible lengths of time people were incarcerated, no idea of the revolting conditions and unspeakable starvation. Harry Wu is right. He did need to write this and inform us. I kept thinking back to my own life during the years he was describing. 1960-61-62? graduating from college, getting married and having my first child. Did I have my head in the sand or did we not have the coverage of events that we have today? I didn't know (or maybe wasn't interested) in events on the other side of the world - except to urge my children to clean their plates because children in China were starving. I had no idea! Harry Wu writes candidly, clearly and courageously. This is a book that I will not forget and will urge friends to read. I travel to China in June for 3 weeks. All the people I will see who are my age (62) experienced some form of repression, indignity, involvement - the list goes on. How I admire them and honor them for their perserverance. Thank you, Harry Wu!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 1995
Format: Paperback
"Bitter Winds" is at once fascinating and horrifying.I knew that China was (and still is) a scary placeto be on the wrong side of the government, but nothing can bring it home like a first-hand account. Harry Wu spent 19 years of his life in prison camps and forced labor camps all over China for crimes no more serious than speaking his mind too openly on a few occasions. He was forced to endure the most humiliating treatment imaginable under terrible conditions including near starvation during China's famines, where the prisoners had it even worse than the normal citizens. If you worry about the thought police, read this book and it will put your worries in perspective -- though certainly not to rest. Now that Wu is again incarcerated in China, where he was trying to gather more information on the forced labor system currently in operation, this book is that much more timely.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
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. His book carries that same fire. The book acquaints one with the Chinese people, their deep suffering, and even brings one to a greater understanding of suffering in anyone. Also, the book is simply written, so it is easy to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gary Selikow on September 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Harry Wu spent 19 years in a hellish Chinese Gulag for having come from a Bourgeouis background , and having been judged as insufficiently reformed into a 'new Socialist person'.

Here he documents the conditions in the Chinese gulag system , a giant factory of torture , starvation and death.

Over 60 million Chinese have died since the Communists seized power in China in 1949.

It is a story of the unbelievable brutality and evil of Maoist China , that still continues today. It is also a story of survival , and the unbelievable odds under which Harry Wu survived. He dedicates this powerful expose to the millions who died. And still Red China remains one of the most opressive and brutal totalitarian dictatorships on earth today.

It is a travesty that Red China enjoys such international standing and was even awarded the 2008 Olympic Games

More must be done to expose and oppose China's genocidal tyranny.

After having gone into exile in the 1980's , Harry Wu returned secretly to China in 1991 to film the conditions in the hideous death factory gulags.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
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 and lost their lives in the grossly inhumane conditions of Chinese prison labor camps. The unjustness is beyond vast and continues today. This book should be required reading in college sociology, political science and history classes as it is unequivocally insightful and informative as well as meaningful. I hope that Harry Wu can continue to carry his important message in this newly adopted country that adores him and cherishes his very important work. We are listening, Harry.
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