Saturday, May 11, 2013

Exploring China Through Books

Book Chat & Coffee Sign-Up: Exploring China Through Books

Temples at Yandang Mountain, Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, China 2004
For me, one of the greatest pleasures of reading is an author's ability to transport a reader to far away lands and introduce ancient and contemporary histories, as well as cultures and traditions.  I have always been fascinated with China and during the summer of 2004, I was fortunate enough to spend six weeks in this fascinating country teaching English to elementary school children. I have since developed an ever-growing list of books to be read that in one way or another are related to China.  I'm convinced that I am not alone; there must be others who would enjoy this type of reading as well.  So, I've decided to host a summer reading program entitled, Exploring China Through Books, here on my blog.  I have chosen six books with the intention of discussing one book every two weeks during the summer months.  Essentially, this will be an on-line book club with scheduled live chats as an option.

  • To sign-up, simply add a link to your blog or Good Reads profile to the linky at the end of this post. If you are a blogger, please post this event on your blog with a link to this post in order to share this with others.  Once you sign-up, please leave a comment on this post and let me know if you would be interested in the live chats. (I need to know an approximate number of participants in order to adjust the ChatRoll widget accordingly)
  • You do not have to commit to read all six books; you may pick and choose those that interest you the most.  However, these should be books...not audio books.
  • At the beginning of each new discussion week, I will create a post of the book being discussed with some possible discussions questions and I encourage to develop your own questions as well.  With each post I will also include a schedule for live book chats.  This is optional, and I will do my best to offer at least three different times to choose from to accommodate the various time zones.  Prior to participating in your first book chat, you will need to sign-up with Chatroll.  This will only take about 5 minutes and you can access Chatroll through the widget in my sidebar.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, please leave a comment on this post and I will address it as soon as possible.
Reading Schedule:
(Books should be read by the date listed for that week's discussion)

Red Sorghum By Mo Yan
The acclaimed novel of love and resistance during late 1930s China by Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature Spanning three generations, this novel of family and myth is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gemlike beauty, as the Chinese battle both Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent 1930s. A legend in China, where it won major literary awards and inspired an Oscar-nominated film directed by Zhang Yimou, Red Sorghum is a book in which fable and history collide to produce fiction that is entirely new—and unforgettable.

Bound Feet & Western Dress 
By Pang-Mei Natasha Chang
"In China, a woman is nothing." Thus begins the saga of a woman born at the turn of the century to a well-to-do, highly respected Chinese family, a woman who continually defied the expectations of her family and the traditions of her culture. Growing up in the perilous years between the fall of the last emperor and the Communist Revolution, Chang Yu-i's life is marked by a series of rebellions: her refusal as a child to let her mother bind her feet, her scandalous divorce, and her rise to Vice President of China's first women's bank in her later years. In the alternating voices of two generations, this dual memoir brings together a deeply textured portrait of a woman's life in China with the very American story of Yu-i's brilliant and assimilated grandniece, struggling with her own search for identity and belonging. Written in pitch-perfect prose and alive with detail, Bound Feet and Western Dress is the story of independent women struggling to emerge from centuries of customs and duty.


The Concubine's Daughter By Pai Kit Fai
In the bestselling tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha, a riveting saga of early twentieth-century China, where a mother and a daugther fight to realize their destinies in a world where woman could still be bought and sold. Lotus Feet. He would give his daughter the dainty feet of a courtesan. This would enhance her beauty and her price, making her future shine like a new coin. He smiled to himself, pouring fresh tea. And it would stop her from running away… When the young concubine of an old farmer in rural China gives birth to a daughter called Li-Xia, or “Beautiful One,” the child seems destined to become a concubine herself. Li refuses to submit to her fate, outwitting her father’s orders to bind her feet and escaping the silk farm with an English sea captain. Li takes her first steps toward fulfilling her mother’s dreams of becoming a scholar—but her final triumph must be left to her daughter, Su Sing, “Little Star,” in a journey that will take her from remote mountain refuges to the perils of Hong Kong on the eve of World War II.


Red Azalea By Anchee Min
Red Azalea is Anchee Min’s celebrated memoir of growing up in the last years of Mao’s China. As a child, she was asked to publicly humiliate a teacher; at seventeen, she was sent to work at a labor collective. Forbidden to speak, dress, read, write, or love as she pleased, she found a lifeline in a secret love affair with another woman. Miraculously selected for the film version of one of Madame Mao’s political operas, Min’s life changed overnight. Then Chairman Mao suddenly died, taking with him an entire world. A revelatory and disturbing portrait of China, Anchee Min’s memoir is exceptional for its candor, its poignancy, its courage, and for its prose which Newsweek calls "as delicate and evocative as a traditional Chinese brush painting."
Waiting By Ha Jin
The demands of human longing contend with the weight of centuries of custom in acclaimed author Ha Jin's Waiting, a novel of unexpected richness and universal resonance. Every summer Lin Kong, a doctor in the Chinese Army, returns to his village to end his loveless marriage with the humble and touchingly loyal Shuyu. But each time Lin must return to the city to tell Manna Wu, the educated, modern nurse he loves, that they will have to postpone their engagement once again. Caught between conflicting claims of these two utterly different women and trapped by a culture in which adultery can ruin lives and careers, Lin has been waiting for eighteen years. This year, he promises, will be different.

Miss Chopsticks By Xinran
Xinran takes her readers to the heart of modern Chinese society in this delightful and absorbing tale of three peasant girls getting to grips with life in the big city. The Li sisters don’t have much education, but one thing has been drummed into them: their mother is a failure because she hasn’t managed to produce a son, and they themselves only merit a number as a name. Women, their father tells them, are like chopsticks: utilitarian and easily broken. Men, on the other hand, are the strong rafters that hold up the roof of a house. Yet when circumstances lead the sisters to seek work in distant Nanjing, the shocking new urban environment opens their eyes. While Three contributes to the success of a small restaurant, Five and Six learn new talents at a health spa and a bookshop/tearoom. And when the money they earn starts arriving back at the village, their father is forced to recognize that daughters are not so dispensable after all. As the Li sisters discover Nanjing, so do we: its past, its customs and culture, and its future as a place where people can change their lives

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cathy,
    Thank you so much for joining this read-a-long and book chat. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
    Happy Reading~