Review by Foreword Clarion


Foreword Claron  www.clarionreview.org
  Reviewed: March 2017

Blades of Grass is an in-depth and well-researched homage to George Aylwin Hogg’s vision for a democratically industrialized China.

Mark Aylwin Thomas presents an informative and meticulously researched portrait of his late uncle and namesake, the humanitarian George Aylwin Hogg, in Blades of Grass.

Blades of Grass draws heavily on letters, journals, and articles published in international news outlets, mostly from Hogg himself, to illustrate Hogg as an intellectually curious young Englishman whose wanderlust led him to a remote pocket of northwest China in the midst of the Second Sino-Japanese War and Chinese Civil War.

Moved by the plight of the Chinese people in the face of Japan’s imperialist rule, Hogg immersed himself in the local culture and became the headmaster of a technical school for Chinese boys and young men, training them in cooperative farming methods. Blades of Grass, aided by Hogg’s research on the subject, makes a convincing case in support of such training.

The bulk of the book chronicles the political and practical challenges of Hogg’s work, as well as its legacy. For the most part, it is helpful to see these events unravel from Hogg’s first-person perspective. He writes with a vivid, engaging voice, and establishes himself as a trusty guide within a fraught historical moment through his rigorous anthropological lens.

Hogg’s analysis even offers up eerie insights into the current state of affairs. After hitchhiking across the United States, he draws comparisons between the conditions in the South and those that lend themselves to the rise of fascist regimes; of both, he writes that the poor working class tend to be “ignorant and bigoted, also convinced of their own superiority; men such as they form the lower bureaucracy under every dictatorship in the world.”

….. Hogg’s analysis is often sharp and prescient, [and when] Thomas’s voice is present, he also proves to possess a clear, compelling voice……

Thomas excels at providing consistently thorough historical context to the events of Hogg’s young life (he died of tetanus at age thirty)………

Blades of Grass is an in-depth and well-researched homage to George Aylwin Hogg’s vision for a democratically industrialized China.

EMMAJEAN HOLLEY

 

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