Engelmann, Larry 1941-
Engelmann, Larry 1941-
Born April 21, 1941, in Austin, MN; son of Stanley Daniel (a laborer) and Delores (a laborer) Engelmann; married Margo Morris, June 13, 1965 (divorced, October 21, 1979); married Meihong Xu (divorced); children: (first marriage) Marya, Erika Anne. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A., 1963, M.A., 1965; University of Michigan, Ph.D., 1969.
American Historical Association, American Film Institute, Society of American Historians.
Intemperance: The Lost War against Liquor, Free Press, 1979.
Tears before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam, Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Meihong Xu) Daughter of China: A True Story of Love and Betrayal, Wiley (New York, NY), 1999.
They Said That!, Renaissance Books, 2000.
(With Emily Wu) Feather in the Storm: A Childhood Lost in Chaos, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor of articles to history journals and popular magazines, including Reader's Digest, New Republic, Life, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Smithsonian. Film critic for Meredith/Sun Newspapers, Inc.
Larry Engelmann has written about a wide variety of topics, ranging from the attempt to suppress liquor during Prohibition to the fall of South Vietnam and the effect of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on the life of a young girl.
In The Goddess and the American Girl: The Story of Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills Engelmann tells of two rival tennis players of the 1920s who enjoyed fame and celebrity on a scale not seen before in professional sports. Suzanne Lenglen won sixty-four of sixty-six sets she played during the 1920s, 269 out of 270 matches, and eight major tournaments. Meanwhile, Helen Wills racked up eight Wimbledon singles titles, seven American singles titles, and four French singles titles. Their successes made the two women celebrities whose every move was scrutinized by fans across the world. Engelmann's book, according to Maria Madsen in Women's Sports and Fitness, "tells how these two women rewrote the record books and reached the pinnacle of success in tennis…. If you love the world of tennis, this book is a must."
Engelmann turned to a personal topic for his book Daughter of China: A True Story of Love and Betrayal, which tells of his second wife's career as a Red Chinese espionage agent. When Meihong Xu, one of the few women chosen to become an intelligence officer with the People's Liberation Army, met Engelmann while he was studying in China, she was branded an enemy of the people and forced to charge that he had raped her. Xu was expelled from the communist party, her husband divorced her, and only through the secret assistance of a high-ranking sympathizer was she able to marry Engelmann and leave the country. Daughter of China "reads like a political thriller," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The "ground-level view [Xu] offers of the Cultural Revolution, the democracy movement, the Tiananmen Square massacre and the hints of struggle among the top leadership will fascinate those familiar with Chinese politics," the critic concluded.
In Tears before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam, Engelmann presents the collected first-hand accounts of seventy-five eywitnesses—from U.S. marines to Vietnamese boat people—caught up in the tumult surrounding the fall of South Vietnam to communist forces in 1975. The witnesses "describe the growing chaos, demoralization and panic as the collapse gained momentum," said Genevieve Stuttaford in her Publishers Weekly review.
While noting that some of the interviews can be "repetitive," School Library Journal contributor Roberta Lisker added that the collected chronicles provide readers with a good impression of the era. Lisker singled out sections of the book centering on the Bui Doi, children of Vietnam fathered by American servicemen. Their stories, along with those of Vietnamese refugees, said the reviewer, "go to the heart of what happens to the innocent in a conflict."
Engelmann collaborated with Emily Wu for their 2006 release, Feather in the Storm: A Childhood Lost in Chaos. A child of upper-class parents during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, Wu "faced every imaginable indignity and outrage," as Mick Sussman put it in a New York Times Book Review article. As Chairman Mao Zedong's Red Guard descended on her home, Wu and her siblings were interred in a state facility as their parents were forced from town. After the young woman graduated from high school, she witnessed the shambles left of her society played out in an environment of brutal treatment that led to the suicide of one of her friends.
Booklist critic Steven Schroeder expressed some reservations about Feather in the Storm, remarking that "Wu has a story to tell, but Engelmann's role is unclear and inspires wariness." If Feather in the Storm "lacks the insight and artistry of a first-rate memoir," noted Sussman, the reviewer concluded that the memoir is nonetheless "an effective testament to what Mao's social experiment inflicted on one girl."
Engelmann once commented to CA: "My primary interest is nonfiction. I try to combine what I learned about research in graduate school with what I learned about good dramatic and precise prose from writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Truman Capote, Sinclair Lewis, and William Styron. I am constantly on the lookout for ideas or information that might be developed in stories or articles. As in fiction, the possibilities for subject matter are unlimited, and I enjoy the research and discovery as much as I do writing a final narrative."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1979, review of Intemperance: The Lost War against Liquor, p. 310; June 15, 1990, review of Tears before the Rain: An OralHistory of the Fall of South Vietnam, p. 1954; September 15, 2006, Steven Schroeder, review of Feather in the Storm: A Childhood Lost in Chaos, p. 19.
Book World, August 28, 1988, review of The Goddess and the American Girl: The Story of Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills, p. 15.
Choice, March, 1980, review of Intemperance, p. 132; November, 1988, review of The Goddess and the American Girl, p. 526; January, 1991, review of Tears before the Rain, p. 832.
Christian Century, January 23, 1980, review of Intemperance, p. 84.
Historian, February, 1981, review of Intemperance, p. 295.
Journal of American History, March, 1981, review of Intemperance, p. 878.
Journal of Asian Studies, May, 1991, Marilyn B. Young, review of Tears before the Rain, p. 452.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1979, review of Intemperance, p. 670; February 1, 1988, review of The Goddess and the American Girl, p. 175; July 1, 1990, review of Tears before the Rain, p. 914.
Library Journal, January 1, 1980, Charles K. Piehl, review of Intemperance, p. 98; April 1, 1988, review of The Goddess and the American Girl, p. 113; June 15, 1990, review of Tears before the Rain, p. 120.
National Review, November 25, 1988, Jeffrey Hart, review of The Goddess and the American Girl, p. 56.
New York Times Book Review, June 12, 1988, Grace Lichtenstein, review of The Goddess and the American Girl, p 13; August 16, 1990, Jonathan Mirsky, review of Tears before the Rain, p. 35; December 24, 2006, Mick Sussman, review of Feather in the Storm.
Publishers Weekly, April 22, 1988, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Goddess and the American Girl, p. 70; July 20, 1999, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Tears before the Rain, p. 46; September 27, 1999, review of Daughter of China: A True Story of Love and Betrayal, p. 81.
School Library Journal, November, 1990, Roberta Lisker, review of Tears before the Rain, p. 154.
Tennis, April, 1988, Ted Tinling, review of The Goddess and the American Girl, p. 23.
Women's Sports and Fitness, January-February, 1989, Maria Madsen, review of The Goddess and the American Girl, p. 11.