Early in the twentieth century, some three hundred Chinese immigrants 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. This historical excavation echoes in an age of violence and xenophobia.
[Herbert] takes on the dishonesties and self-deceptions that can keep the politics of an entire country rotten all the way down ... The book is both vivid and enthusiastically researched, examining each piece of available evidence to establish what must have happened at every stage and how it was obscured, then and later. Herbert re-creates the history of Torreón and its Chinese community, how they thrived and who saw them as an economic threat. (He favors all kinds of local color; the book’s title, rather brilliantly, is the nickname of the soccer team’s home stadium.) Here and there, he’ll allow his research to slip into empathic identifications ... Or he’ll offer a passing flash of self-revelation, just enough to place himself within the society he’s describing.
... a history lesson, a personal travelogue, a journalist’s notebook, and a disquisition on the nature of violence and the meaning of community ... the author proves an engaging, earthy tour guide whose seeming digressions into both past and present serve to underpin our understanding and illuminate his analysis of events ... For U.S. readers not steeped in history lessons of the Mexican Revolution, Herbert offers multiple guideposts...The chronology in the back of the book is both helpful and revealing.
... a masterful combination of archival research and prose elegance ... Herbert's book is a triumph: an eloquent testament not only to the hundreds of Chinese who were tragically slaughtered during those three days, but also a passionate, remarkable intellectual study in the psychology of racism. His research is complemented by a literary style which at times assumes near poetic qualities ... Significantly, Herbert does not contain his study to the experience of the single generation of Chinese who lived and died in the slaughter. His book offers equal balance to Mexican and Chinese history alike, and explores the historical and intellectual developments in China which spurred mass migration to the Americas, as well as the rich political debates which flourished within the expatriate community. As a result, the Chinese protagonists in The House of the Pain of Others come alive not merely as victims but as active agents in the construction of the Mexican nation ... Just as significant is what Herbert's book says about the role of elite discourse in creating and maintaining spaces and opportunities for racist violence ... not for readers who want simple, straightforward reporting. It's a more complex, yet ultimately more rewarding journey; Herbert's stylistic literary technique and Christina MacSweeney's masterful translation provide an intellectually provocative study that unfolds with elegant, narrative grace. The result is a brilliant, breakthrough study which reminds us that the lessons of history are essential to learn and re-learn, if we are to steer our troubled present toward a more hopeful future.