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book reviews

‘Tombstone’ by Yang Jisheng, translated from the Chinese by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian

Mao’s Great Leap Forward, designed to make China the world’s leading communist state, generated the worst famine in history. Until recently, the West knew little about the causes and magnitude of the disaster, which killed tens of millions in four years.

As a veteran Chinese journalist, Yang Jisheng recounts in his book “Tombstone” how for decades officials blamed “natural calamity” for the massive population loss; references were made to epidemics, “and no mention of starvation was allowed.” Yang has conducted a sweeping investigation and amassed information from dozens of archives to produce a comprehensive history of the Great Chinese Famine. He intended his book as a monument to the millions of victims, including his own father.

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