Describes how some of China's best-known writers, filmmakers, and artists have overcome crackdowns and censorship to forge a nationwide movement that challenges the Communist Party on its most hallowed ground: its control of history.
Superb, stylishly written ... With firm but never dogmatic moral conviction, Johnson pays tribute to the writers, the scholars, the poets, and the filmmakers who found the courage to challenge Communist Party propaganda ... The works of Johnson’s underground historians—books, films, and various publications—don’t amount to much compared with the vast propaganda apparatus of the country’s Communist Party. And yet Johnson argues that their value is incalculable ... Johnson is an expert on religious life in China.
Illuminating ... He offers a rare hopeful perspective ... The inspiration for the book’s title comes from a short-lived student-run journal from 1960 called Spark. The story of the magazine and the idealistic young people who ran it forms the book’s most compelling chapter.
If [the subject] sounds in any way dry, this book will assure you that it’s not. Sparks is a work of scholarship, investigative journalism of a kind that rarely happens in the age of slashed budgets, with eyewitness accounts of brutality that will chill your blood ... Johnson’s stories, told by relatives of people who had suffered, bring these numbers, and this history, chillingly alive.