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Roxanne Reviews "1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows"

by Ai Weiwei

If you were fortunate, you saw one or maybe both Ai Weiwei art installations at The Ringling Museum (Zodiac Brass Sculptures or Zodiac Legos). If you missed those, you can discover what inspired Weiwei by reading his engrossing memoir1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows.

The impetus for Weiwei's memoir was his two months in solitary confinement in China where he deeply regretted his lack of empathy for his own father’s plight that he penned his backstory. Thus, Weiwei’s memoir is his father's biography as much as his own memoir and reads similar to Laura Hillenbrand’s heroic and riveting biography Unbroken.

After surviving labor camp in his formative years with his father, Weiwei made it to New York City and used his artistic skill to survive. He documents his friendship with Allen Ginsburg which originated from a meeting Ginsberg had with his father in a previous meeting in China.

Weiwei returned to his homeland, beginning a career in repurposing object art which quickly transformed into rebellious statement pieces in response to the oppressive society. Equally moving was his stumble into fatherhood where he evolved even further, wanting his son to understand his genealogical legacy.

At close to 400 pages, I was enthralled by the entire journey. Weiwei’s fearlessness is an awe inspiring plea for freedom of speech and expression throughout the world.

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