Bookish, languid, and thoughtful, Kang was raised in a family that personified everything the Communists sought to destroy. In his sobering memoir, set against the backdrop of an extraordinary time in Chinese history, he takes readers on a tour of a society so twisted that, provided one is viewing it from afar, it can be difficult to separate the tragic from the farcical.
Mao and his henchmen targeted intellectuals and the elderly, many of whom were physically as well as mentally abused. Kang's grandfather, a docile Buddhist, was beaten, and Kang was forced to write endless "confessions" which were added to a file designed to cripple his future. Describing his arrest (for such subversive acts as reading Western literature and dating a fellow student), a stint in a labor camp, his bizarre adoption at 28 by a middle-aged peasant, marriage, escape to America, and an ill-fated return to China, Kang infuses his story with a heartbreaking sense of humor at the sad futility of life under an authoritarian regime that would waste time and energy in order to stifle creativity and a work ethic. Kang's Confessions is both a cautionary tale and a delicate, poetic elegy for a deeply loved, lost country. (Fall 2007 Selection)