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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine (Holt Paperback)
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on August 15, 2017
Here is a story never taught in school, and certainly unknown to the general public. Who knew that while I and my friends were leaning to drive, eating pizza and cheese steaks, watching American Bandstand, going to school, complaining about what we wanted and didn't have - - millions were suffering beyond anything we could imagine? Starving, living in constant fear, eating their dead, selling their own children to be eaten, eating excrement, letting grain rot to avoid embarrassment to the government, all the fantastic lies just to avoid offending one man and dying by the thousands in every village. Worse than our most terrible visions of a traditional Hell, trivializing even the worst aspects of the Great Depression in the U.S. Reading this challenges normal beliefs about humanity. The Holocaust in Europe during WW II has been described as the most significant and terrible happening of 20th century history. But is that so? Based on Becker's quoted estimates, there were possibly more deaths attributable to the Great Famine than to the entire War. Is that the measure of a terrible happening?

Given today's political context, it is doubtful than anything will be learned - by the public - about this fairly recent history without a reading of this book and reference materials used to put it together. I feel that I have learned something that most people know nothing about. Mao and his mentor Stalin certainly rival Hitler in just plain nastiness.
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on July 3, 2017
It is amazing that the Chinese Communist Party largely succeeded in sweeping knowledge of this event under the rug, even in the West. Will there ever be a Holocaust Museum in Beijing to commemorate the 30-40 million peasants who died of starvation in Mao's insane man-made famine? Probably not, as long as the CCP continues to control the official historical narrative in the Chinese press. However, the Party's conspicuous silence is proof of its complicity in a terrible crime against humanity.
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on June 28, 2014
I will say that this is not an easy book to read, it is fascinating but has a lot of very dry political rhetoric. The story is horrifying and unbelievable, especially when looked at in the time frame involved. This was a time when most of the world was advancing and moving into the future and yet you see China rolling back to the middle ages. This shows what can happen to a country when it is ruled by such a tyrant. The Chinese people had no hope and it makes you wonder how much hope the rural people have to this day. It is hard for a democratic people to believe the horrors suffered by the Chinese peasants. I would have given the book five stars but it was kind of slow to plow through. It was certainly an education on suffering and trying to live through a horrible time. Maybe some day there will be leadership in China that really cares about the future of their people.
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on January 6, 2014
I had read books that hinted at the atrocities committed during China's great famine but was astonished and at times disgusted with the facts presented in this book. I am amazed at the amount of research done and indeed required for a book of this nature. The author has taken an amazing amount of information and presented it in a surprisingly easy to read text. It is historical, but the author explains who the individuals are, where they stand politically, and how they fit in the picture. As for the experience of the peasants, the author spares no detail. I continue to be amazed and sickened that these things happened in the recent past. Every person's eyes need to be opened about this tragedy. This book will tell you the full story.
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on October 2, 2015
Most people are familiar with the cultural revolution and the resulting bloodbath, but might not be very familiar with the famines and mass starvation that Mao's regime caused. I know I wasn't. This is a very enlightening and harrowing read. Some interesting topics covered are: mass starvation, exponential population growth, artificial famines, pseudoscience, ethnic cleansing, seizing of personal property (such as cooking utensils and livestock), and forced labor, all of which were government policies. What is interesting, is that many of these policies were the result of hyper-inflated reporting by local authorities.
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on September 5, 2017
Very well researchedb very well written and translated. Horrifying to read but, to be honest, very educational for anyone who romanticizes a socialist or communist form of government. This showcases what happens when that "Utopia" is actually put into effect. Its a hard read (emotionally) but very, very worth it.
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on December 16, 2011
This book looks at the disastrous policies of the Chinese Communist Party and how those policies led to famine in the late '50s and early '60s. Jasper's writing, while dry and uninteresting, is an example of excellent scholarship. He used countless sources, including many internal CCP documents, interviews, and plenty of statistical analysis. Mixed with the scholarship are several in-depth narratives that look at specific counties and provinces in China.

Becker's book is one of the first to detail the disastrous Great Leap Forward, Yang Jisheng's "Tombstone" and then Frank Dikötter's "Mao's Great Famine." The English translation of "Tombstone" removes about half of the original book's contents. "Mao's Great Famine" is somewhat more myopic than "Hungry Ghosts," providing little geography context for the hundreds of anecdotes Dikötter presents.

The scholarly debate between these books seems focused on the number of deaths. Taken together, the three books point to a death toll between 30,000,000 and 45,000,000 - an unfathomable tragedy. All three books correctly point out the disgusting human fault of the famine. Jasper's book, while dryer, does an excellent job of examining local and national faults.
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on June 6, 2014
What lead me to this book was a work of fiction, dreams of joy by Lisa See. The things that she referred to seemed so unbelievable. When I looked up what she used for references, this book was used. I found this book to be amazing. The information provided kept me wanting more. While Dreams of Joy was a narrative, it was only from the perspective of the peasants in China/Chinese in the US.This book gives the reader incite into the people behind the decision that lead to the events in the other book. The writer gives so much information. It was just fuel to the fire! READ THIS BOOK!!!! :0)
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on October 8, 2014
This is a very detailed book. The documentation both by interviews and government documents is voluminous. I recommend this to anyone who really wants to understand what happened between 1958-61 under the mis-management of Mao. This is really a little known and poorly understood human tragedy on an unbelievable scale. The death toll dwarfs anything we know of in modern history.
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on February 24, 2017
This is such a sad and horrifying story, and it needs to be told in hopes that other countries would not cause such astounding suffering to those who have so little to begin with!!
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