genre biography

When There Were Tigers in Singapore

“Japan invades and captures the British colony of Singapore in 1942. All Europeans on the island are being interned. Edward Schirmer, the author’s grandfather, faces a dilemma—he is German, but born as a British subject. In a strange stroke of fortune, he finds himself friends with General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the famed ‘Tiger of Malaya’. Seeing the fate of the other Europeans, Edward reluctantly lets the Japanese assume he is a friendly German national. The secret of his true identity remains between the two men only…but when politics removes the protective Yamashita from the picture, betrayal ensues and Edward finds himself in prison, his family scattered.

Using the personal history from his family’s saga & extensive research to confirm his father’s account, the author then details the true-life account of Edward’s son (the author’s father)—a hellish tale of a six year-old boy’s quest for survival, alone on the streets of a war-torn vanquished nation.

Part autobiography, part microhistory of WWII with some lesser-known details of famous figures from the WWII era, but wholly the story of the fight for survival in and after the harshest of wars.

Where everyone is hungry and racial tension is rife.

Where martial law allows the occupiers to summarily execute at will.”

(Submitted by Beth McCrea, book club co-founder.)

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The Great Thinkers of the Kazakh Steppe

“This book is a collection of biographies of great people from Kazakhstan's history. Some were real heroes of their time, some were not understood and were even thought to be traitors. However, their input into the future was very significant and their achievements cannot be diminished. Here, you will find out about the national composers-akyns, poets, and Khans. You will learn about the three judges that established the first legal system in Kazakhstan. Some of the characters might seem mythical, but the stories about them still live among us.

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Yerkebulan Dzhelbuldin was born in 1934 in Kazakhstan. He worked as a teacher in the Soviet Union for all his life and began gathering Kazakh materials for his book after Kazakhstan acquired its independence. Many facts were concealed from the Kazakh people and even Kazakhs did not know about their Khans and philosophers.

This book has never been published before. I translated Yerkebulan’s materials and put them into a book along with the sketches of all the characters. My name is Dana Jeteyeva and I specialize in translations of Kazakh fairy tales and other interesting facts about Kazakhstan. I want people all over the world to learn about my country—even though it is a big country in the middle of the large continent of Eurasia, few people know anything about it.”

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A Matter of Rats

"It is not only the past that lies in ruins in Patna, it is also the present. But that is not the only truth about the city that Amitava Kumar explores in this vivid, entertaining account of his hometown. We accompany him through many Patnas, the myriad cities locked within the city—the shabby reality of the present-day capital of Bihar; Pataliputra, the storied city of emperors; the dreamlike embodiment of the city in the minds and hearts of those who have escaped contemporary Patna's confines. Full of fascinating observations and impressions, A Matter of Rats reveals a challenging and enduring city that exerts a lasting pull on all those who drift into its orbit.

Kumar's ruminations on one of the world's oldest cities, the capital of India's poorest province, are also a meditation on how to write about place. His memory is partial. All he has going for him is his attentiveness. He carefully observes everything that surrounds him in Patna: rats and poets, artists and politicians, a girl's picture in a historian's study, and a sheet of paper on his mother's desk. The result is this unique book, as cutting as it is honest."

A special thank you to book club member, Ester Elbert for the suggestion.

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