NEW YORKER Best Book of the Week 2023
WOMEN'S NATIONAL BOOK ASSOCIATION 2023 Great Group Read
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.
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 known 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.
About the Author
Gulchehra Hoja is a Uyghur journalist based in the United States. Her reporting on the situation in East Turkestan (commonly known as the Xinjiang Autonomous Province) for Radio Free Asia – which led to the incarceration of her entire extended family – has been widely recognized in the US and Europe. She has earned honors such as the 2019 Magnitsky Human Rights Award; the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation in 2020; recognition as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world every year since 2016; and multiple appearances at the Oslo Freedom Forum since 2020. She has been profiled for The Washington Post and The Financial Times, among many other publications.
"We said ‘never again’ after millions of Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but here we are in 2023 and another genocide is taking place in front of our eyes of the Uyghur people in China. Gulchera Hoja bravely exposes this new holocaust perpetrated by the Chinese communist party in her brilliantly written book, A Stone is Most Precious Where It Belongs. Her story is one of immense sacrifice to expose the truth. As a reporter for Radio Free Asia, Ms. Hoja was one of the first people to expose the Uyghur concentration camps in Xinjiang and as a result, her entire extended family were rounded up and imprisoned on those same camps. The suffering of the Uyghur people that she documents is a must read. We owe Gulchera Hoja an enormous debt of gratitude to bear witness and share this horrifying story."—Bill Browder, New York Times bestselling author of Red Notice
“A Stone Is Most Precious Where It Belongs is a brave and brilliant book. It is a window into topics ranging from efforts to maintain Uyghur culture in the face of suffocating propaganda in Chinese state media through to the opportunities and agonies of exile. But most gripping is Gulchehra Hoja’s willingness to share not just her story but herself—humor and humility, pain and love and faith.”—Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch
"Gulchehra’s story, and her work to shed light on the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide of the Uyghurs, has been carried out at a high price. This book offers a valuable look at the experiences that led to her dedicated journalism, and her fight to preserve and live out Uyghur culture."—Nury Turkel, author of No Escape: The True Story of China’s Genocide of the Uyghurs
“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… 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.”—Kirkus Reviews
"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. ... stunning."—Book Riot
Hoja’s memoir is not a memoir of the camps, but of her extraordinary life, which takes in the past 50 years of Xinjiang’s history. A Stone Is Most Precious Where It Belongs makes this fascinating history, once the reserve of experts and specialists, more accessible than ever before. ... One admires, albeit from a distance, a woman who takes on those odds again and again."—The Times UK
"Gulchera Hoja has given the world that rarest of treasures—a true account that magnificently tells the story of a whole people—the Uyghur nation—while simultaneously telling the most personal and powerful chronicle of one heroic woman's life. Readers will not be able to put down this beautifully written chronicle of Gulchera's devotion to her family, her people, her faith and to her conscience. She has faced excruciating choices but through it all, her virtue and valor shine through like a beacon of light. This book will make each reader want to live a life of greater purpose."—Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, president, Lantos Foundation, past Chair, US Commission on International Religious Freedom
"On one level this immensely significant book is a memoir of a journalist overcoming tremendous odds and making unimaginable sacrifices to tell the truth. On another it tells the terrible story of the cultural genocide of the Uyghur people at the hands of the Chinese government. I found this heart-rending book impossible to put down and hope it finds the global audience it deserves."—Peter Oborne, journalist and author of The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong About Islam
"This gripping memoir conveys the courage and cost of telling a truer story."—The Guardian
“Her account is not just timely but timeless.”—The Telegraph
“Gutting... Readers come away from it with a better appreciation for Uyghur culture and a stronger understanding of the suffering they have faced for many years.”—The Dispatch
"Family and friendship are as much a part of Hoja’s story as the larger national and political context, reminding readers that every missing Uyghur is a person with a story of their own."—BookPage
"Hoja’s entire story is worth reading on a number of levels. ... As the Uyghur holocaust continues, A Stone is Most Precious Where it Belongs should be required reading not only for any U.S. diplomat or official working on China but, indeed, for every U.S. diplomat, congressional aide, and flag officer, not only for what it teaches about the Uyghurs but, as importantly, for how it demonstrates the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of America’s most powerful competitor today."—Michael Rubin, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
“By unraveling the misogynistic and misleading lies that put women’s lives in jeopardy, Wright simultaneously restores Restell to her rightful place in history and obliterates the faulty reasoning underlying the very foundation of what has since been dubbed the “pro-life” movement.” —Daily Kos
"When Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja left a Chinese state media job to become an outspoken activist, she became an outcast overnight. Her story speaks to the courage, bravery, and hope of her people."—Sarah Lang, The Christian Science Monitor