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A Stone Is Most Precious Where it Belongs
Cover of A Stone Is Most Precious Where it Belongs
A Stone Is Most Precious Where it Belongs
A Memoir of Uyghur Exile, Hope, and Survival
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This extraordinary memoir shares an insight into the lives of the Uyghurs, a people and culture being systematically destroyed by China—and a woman who gave up everything to help her people.

In February 2018, twenty-four members of Gulchehra Hoja's family disappeared overnight. Her crime – and thus that of her family – was her award-winning investigations on the plight of her people, the Uyghurs, whose existence and culture is being systematically destroyed by the Chinese government.
A Stone is Most Precious Where it Belongs is Gulchehra's stunning memoir, taking us into the everyday world of life under Chinese rule in East Turkestan (more formally as the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China), from her idyllic childhood to its modern nightmare. The grandchild of a renowned musician and the daughter of an esteemed archaeologist, Gulchehra grew up with her people's culture and history running through her veins. She showed her gifts early on as a dancer, actress, and storyteller, putting her on a path to success as a major television star. Slowly though, she began to understand what China was doing to her people, as well as her own complicity as a journalist. As her rising fame and growing political awakening coincided, she made it her mission to expose the crimes Beijing is committing in the far reaches of its nation, no matter the cost.
Reveling in the beauty of East Turkestan and its people – its music, its culture, its heritage, and above all its emphasis on community and family – this groundbreaking memoir gives us a glimpse beyond what the Chinese state wants us to see, showcasing a woman who was willing to risk not just her own life, but also that of everyone she loves, to expose her people's story to the world.

This extraordinary memoir shares an insight into the lives of the Uyghurs, a people and culture being systematically destroyed by China—and a woman who gave up everything to help her people.

In February 2018, twenty-four members of Gulchehra Hoja's family disappeared overnight. Her crime – and thus that of her family – was her award-winning investigations on the plight of her people, the Uyghurs, whose existence and culture is being systematically destroyed by the Chinese government.
A Stone is Most Precious Where it Belongs is Gulchehra's stunning memoir, taking us into the everyday world of life under Chinese rule in East Turkestan (more formally as the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China), from her idyllic childhood to its modern nightmare. The grandchild of a renowned musician and the daughter of an esteemed archaeologist, Gulchehra grew up with her people's culture and history running through her veins. She showed her gifts early on as a dancer, actress, and storyteller, putting her on a path to success as a major television star. Slowly though, she began to understand what China was doing to her people, as well as her own complicity as a journalist. As her rising fame and growing political awakening coincided, she made it her mission to expose the crimes Beijing is committing in the far reaches of its nation, no matter the cost.
Reveling in the beauty of East Turkestan and its people – its music, its culture, its heritage, and above all its emphasis on community and family – this groundbreaking memoir gives us a glimpse beyond what the Chinese state wants us to see, showcasing a woman who was willing to risk not just her own life, but also that of everyone she loves, to expose her people's story to the world.
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Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2022

    Raised in a prominent Uyghur family in East Turkistan (officially, the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China), Hoja came to recognize the damage done by Chinese rule to Uyghur culture and fled to the United States. As a result, 24 members of her family vanished overnight, a story she unfolded in award-winning investigations for Radio Free Asia and in more detail here. With a 25,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    February 15, 2023
    Hoja carries with her a stone from her homeland, in remembrance of her life before her family was torn apart. While working as a television host for the Chinese official media, the author realized that the government that employed her was actually destroying her. During this time period, there were known efforts to spread Chinese propaganda through bilingual reeducation programs in the country's Uyghur region--in reality, a step towards the annihilation of Uyghur culture. By forcing Han traditions and ideals on the Uyghur people, Chinese officials effectively backed the region into a corner. The author defected and published a story through Radio Free Asia about internment camps that were being used to forcibly eradicate the Uyghur people, language, and culture, starting a chain reaction that couldn't be stopped. All members of Hoja's family were removed from their homes and put into internment camps in an act of retaliation. Debut memoirist Hoja balances detailed writing with the well-related emotions of her painful experiences. Her story is one that needs to be shared.

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 13, 2023
    Uyghur journalist Hoja debuts with an inspiring account of her path to prominence as a voice against the Chinese Communist Party’s oppression of the Uyghur people. Hoja’s childhood in Umruchi, East Turkestan, was steeped in Uyghur culture and history; her father, an archaeologist, ran the local Uyghur arts center. Following her graduation from Xinjiang Normal University, Hoja produced Uyghur children’s programs for television that were heavily censored by the Chinese government. This precipitated her immigration to the U.S. to work for Radio Free Asia beginning in 2001, where she reported on the horrific events occurring in her homeland, though not without repercussions for her family, many of whom are still missing after being detained by the Chinese government. “In this Orwellian system of authoritarianism, with a complete lack of privacy and its swift, brutal racialized state violence, my beautiful homeland has been turned into an enormous open-air jail,” she writes. Hoja masterfully weaves harrowing national history and her own experience, enhancing the reader’s investment in both. It’s a powerful take on what it means to survive, and inspiring and infuriating in equal measure. Agent: Max Edwards, Aevitas Creative Management.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from December 15, 2022
    A Uyghur journalist from East Turkestan recounts her family's suffering at the hands of Chinese authorities. In this moving, deeply personal account of a family's collective anguish, Hoja, a reporter for Radio Free Asia, re-creates in intimate detail her life story within the tight Uyghur community and their ultimate persecution and imprisonment in "reeducation camps." Once the thriving Uyghur capital of East Turkestan--designated by the Chinese Communist Party in the 1950s as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region--�r�mchi was gradually inundated in the early 1990s by the majority Han Chinese. CCP authorities sought to dilute the ethnic Uyghur population and "modernize" their cultural ways, which were deemed "backward" and "uncivilized." The Han were favored for jobs and extraction of natural resources, leaving the Uyghurs impoverished and marginalized. Hoja came from a remarkable lineage of scholars and musicians, and her own passion for dance helped propel her to prominence in both school and cultural performances. Outspoken about the repressive tactics of the Chinese government, the author landed a job producing a children's program at Xinjiang TV when she was 22. Regarding an early program she helped create, Hoja writes, "we hadn't put in any political content, but at that point, in the mid-1990s, even existing as a Uyghur had begun to seem political....I was determined to counteract that as much as I could, while still remaining under the radar. After all, how much trouble could a children's program cause?" Gradually, as the author shows, the Chinese authorities began heavily censoring content related to the Uyghur experience. While visiting her estranged husband in Vienna, Hoja applied to Radio Free Asia and began working to expose the ongoing Chinese suppression of the Uyghurs from the outside. The widespread effects on her family were devastating, but we are lucky to have this important historical record of what she--and so many others--endured. A heartfelt, accessible story of a determined warrior for her oppressed people.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2023

    Award-winning journalist Hoja offers a moving memoir of growing up as part of East Turkestan's Uyghur community and becoming an advocate for her people. Narrator Sarah Suzuk deftly captures Hoja's emotions as she grows up immersed in Uyghur culture, religion, and history, enters into a loveless marriage, becomes a TV celebrity while educating Uyghur children about their culture, leaves her family and friends to work as a journalist for Radio Free Asia, and finally, with her true love, raises her children in the United States. Though she remains in control of her emotions throughout, an edge of uncertainty and horror informs Suzuk's performance when Hoja learns that the Chinese Communist Party imprisoned her parents and 24 family members because of how she spoke out against the genocide of the Uyghur people. A sense of relief is made palpable when Hoja learns that many family members were released after she testified before a U.S. Congressional commission on human-rights abuses. VERDICT An illuminating and inspirational memoir, laying bare the present-day horrors of genocide and calling for action.--Stephanie Bange

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Stone Is Most Precious Where it Belongs
A Stone Is Most Precious Where it Belongs
A Memoir of Uyghur Exile, Hope, and Survival
Gulchehra Hoja
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