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China Hand: An Autobiography
John Paton Davies Jr., Penn Press, 2012,
$34.95, hardcover, 376 pages.
One morning at the height of the McCar-
thyite hysteria of the 1950s, career FSO
John Paton Davies Jr. was summoned
to the State Department and fred. His
ofense? Te diplomat had advised the U.S.
government during World War II that com-
munist forces in China were poised to take over the country—
which they did, in 1949.
John Paton Davies Jr.’s autobiography, organized for publi-
cation following his death by his daughter Tiki Davies, ofers a
detailed account of his experience during more than 20 years
with the State Department as one of the foremost experts on
Asia. But fascinating as that story is,
China Hand
treats readers to
much more.
“A major new contribution to World War II and early Cold War
history” is how historian John Lewis Gaddis describes the book.
“Davies predicted more accurately than anyone else, prior to the
Cold War, what China’s course would be during it. We are most
fortunate to have his posthumous autobiography available at last,
in which he explains, in shrewd and sparkling prose, how he did
Te son of missionary parents, Davies was raised in China. He
joined the fedgling Foreign Service in 1931 and was posted to
China, where he remained until nearly the end of World War II.
Fluent in Mandarin and very familiar with the country and its cul-
ture, he was both an actor and observer in Washington’s relations
with China and Soviet Union during that tumultuous period.
John Paton Davies Jr. (1908-1999) also wrote
Foreign and
Other Afairs
(W.W. Norton & Co., 1964) and
Dragon by the Tail:
American, British, Japanese, and Russian Encounters with China
and One Another
(W.W. Norton & Co., 1980).
The Latin American Literary
Boom and U.S. Nationalism
During the Cold War
Deborah Cohn, Vanderbilt University
Press, 2012, $34.95, paperback,
280 pages.
During the 1960s the works of Julio Cor-
tázar, Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel Garcia
Márquez burst onto the American literary
stage, and rapidly gained popularity. But the writers themselves
were barred from the United States by a government that feared
they would spread radical, anti-American views.
Deborah Cohn’s exploration of this paradox led to this very
interesting study of the history of the rise of Latin American
literature and the establishment of Latin American studies as a
scholarly discipline in the United States during the Cold War. Te
book documents the process by which U.S. universities, publish-
ers, philanthropic organizations, cultural centers and authors
coordinated eforts to bring Latin American literature and stud-
ies to the U.S. public in the face of ofcial fears.
As the author puts it, her work “reconfgures the way that
we study Latin American literary history at the same time that
it expands our understanding of the impact of Latin Ameri-
can authors on U.S. writers and the U.S. literary and academic
Deborah Cohn, the daughter of FSO Irene Cohn, is associate
professor of Spanish and American studies at Indiana Univer-
sity–Bloomington. She is also the author of
History and Memory
in the Two Souths: Recent Southern and Spanish American Fic-
(Vanderbilt University Press, 1999).
Left, Right, Out: The History
of Third Parties in America
David A. Epstein, Arts and Letters
Imperium Publishing, 2012,
$16.95, paperback, 238 pages.
David Epstein examines the role of politi-
cal forces beyond today’s two parties, and
fnds it is far more signifcant than Ralph
Nader’s impact on the campaign of 2000.
He analyzes third-party infuence from the time of the founders’
original conception of a united government to the harsh red-blue
divide we have today. Although distant from the mainstream,
these third parties are often the standard-bearers for what later
become major party platforms. Tey have been infuential in
shaping political discourse on signifcant issues from prohibition
to civil rights.
Tis account of long-forgotten movers and shakers, challeng-
ers of the two-party system who prevented political stagnation
and pushed mainstream parties to adapt to them, is a reminder
of the winding path politics in our country has taken. Epstein’s
thorough look at each infuential third-party actor in American
history is supplemented with historic electoral maps and the text
of the U.S. Constitution.
Long passionate about United States’ history and politics,