The house of the pain of others Chronicle of a small genocide

Julián Herbert, 1971-

Book - 2019

Early in the twentieth century, amid the myths of progress and modernity that underpinned Mexico's ruling party, some three hundred Chinese immigrants--close to half of the Cantonese residents of the newly founded city of Torreón--were massacred over the course of three days. It is considered the largest slaughter of Chinese people in the history of the Americas, but more than a century later, the facts continue to be elusive, mistaken, and repressed. "And what do you know about the C...hinese people who were killed here?" Julián Herbert asks anyone who will listen. An exorcism of persistent and discomfiting ghosts, The House of the Pain of Others attempts a reckoning with the 1911 massacre. Looping, digressive, and cinematic, Herbert blends reportage, personal reflection, essay, and academic research to portray the historical context as well as the lives of the perpetrators and victims of the "small genocide." This brilliant historical excavation echoes profoundly in an age redolent with violence and xenophobia.

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Subjects
Genres
Creative nonfiction
Published
Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press [2019]
Language
English
Spanish
Item Description
Originally published: Mexico City : Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, 2015 under title: La casa del dolor ajeno : crónica de un prequeño genocidio en La Laguna.
Physical Description
294 pages : map ; 21 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 285-294).
ISBN
9781555978372
1555978371
Main Author
Julián Herbert, 1971- (-)
Other Authors
Christina MacSweeney (translator), Jeffrey L. Ward (cartographer)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The "largest mass slaughter of Asians on the American continent" claimed the lives of over 300 Chinese immigrants in May 1911 in Torreón, in the Mexican state of Coahuila. Despite its magnitude, the massacre remains a "buried episode," obscured by substantial erroneous coverage, that writer, musician, and teacher Herbert describes as "the national fiction of a small genocide." Amidst too many unreliable "incarnations," what was missing was "a croníca, with its blend of literature and journalism . . . an all-encompassing report." With exhaustive zeal, Herbert interviews descendants, archivists, officials, and conducts impromptu what-do-you-know? conversations with Torreón cab drivers. He compiles several-century histories of China, the U.S., and Mexico. He investigates Sinophobia across the North American continent. He studies immigration patterns and cultural and economic clashes. He confronts "the national novel about the small genocide . . . denial, calumny, obfuscation, contempt, half-truths," and vigilantly reveals how 300 shoeless Chinese bodies were dumped in a mass grave and the betrayals that continued afterward. Award-winning translator MacSweeney enables anglophone readers access to Herbert's electrifying testimony, first published in Mexico in 2015. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Combining reportage, personal reflection, essay and academic treatise, this brilliant work of historical excavation presents the real facts surrounding the massacre of Chinese immigrants in Mexico in the early 20th century. Original.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A brilliant work of historical excavation with profound echoes in an age redolent with violence and xenophobiaEarly in the twentieth century, amid the myths of progress and modernity that underpinned Mexico’s ruling party, some three hundred Chinese immigrants—close to half of the Cantonese residents of the newly founded city of Torreón—were massacred over the course of three days. It is considered the largest slaughter of Chinese people in the history of the Americas, but more than a century later, the facts continue to be elusive, mistaken, and repressed.“And what do you know about the Chinese people who were killed here?” Julián Herbert asks anyone who will listen. An exorcism of persistent and discomfiting ghosts, The House of the Pain of Others attempts a reckoning with the 1911 massacre. Looping, digressive, and cinematic, Herbert blends reportage, personal reflection, essay, and academic research to portray the historical context as well as the lives of the perpetrators and victims of the “small genocide.” This brilliant historical excavation echoes profoundly in an age redolent with violence and xenophobia.