One Book, One Chicago Spring 2012
These nonfiction titles provide insight into the China of yesterday and of today—its history, culture and people.
Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love and Language
By Deborah Fallows
Fallows writes about the opportunity that learning a new language provides—to discover a culture through its nuances and the spoken word. To immerse oneself in another language offers further insight and appreciation of another culture.
China—Getting Rich First: A Modern Social History
By Duncan Hewitt
Is China moving too fast? Since Deng Xiaoping’s announcement in the 1980s that China “would let some of the people get rich first,” some argue that the gap between rich and poor has grown. Journalist Hewitt presents China’s rapid changes through the voices of the common people in this work based on his personal observations.
Invisible China: A Journey Through Ethnic Borderlands
By Colin Legerton and Jacob Rawson
Legerton and Rawson undertake a 14,000-mile journey through the peripheral areas of China to meet with China’s non-Han minority groups and discuss the role they play in Chinese society. Their findings provide an introduction to the complex, vibrant and diverse society of China’s 50-plus minorities.
Modern China (A Brief Insight)
By Rana Mitter
In this short and concise introduction to modern China, Mitter provides the starting point for anyone who wishes to further their knowledge of Chinese history and its present-day culture. This book offers an excellent beginning for those unfamiliar with China’s social and cultural history.
Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China
By Jian Ping
Ping’s touching memoir of a family’s resilience over incredible adversity under Mao’s rule offers the reader an eyewitness look into a closed and secretive society. As seen through the eyes of a child, Ping’s memoir pays tribute to her family who struggled against insurmountable odds and overcame them with grace and dignity. This is a story of family, love and courage.
Understanding China: A Guide to China’s Economy, History and Political Culture
By John Bryan Starr
Starr’s updated book remains one of the classic works on contemporary China and is a thoroughly researched work introducing important aspects of this society, from political and economic to cultural and social issues. Of interest is the importance of the status of both Hong Kong and Taiwan, the role of the Chinese military and China’s economic development.
China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know
By Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom
Wasserstrom gives a concise view of China’s transformation from a repressive state into a global political and economic powerhouse. Written in a question-and-answer format, this book presents information on historical, cultural and economic events that shaped China’s past and future.
China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation
Xinran, author of The Good Women of China and Sky Burial, traveled throughout China interviewing the older generation about the sweeping changes in Chinese society during the 20th century. This oral history offers not only outsiders but those living in contemporary China a rare opportunity to learn about the real story of those who lived through these times.
“Socialism Is Great!” A Worker’s Memoir of the New China
By Lijia Zhang
Zhang, who grew up working in one of China’s factories, writes of her disillusionment with “The Glorious Cause,” which led her to study the English language and eventually support the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. This memoir presents a picture of life during those turbulent times and the continuing transformation of Chinese society.
These titles will take any curious reader further into the experience of China that Gold Boy, Emerald Girl provides.
By Lan Samantha Chang
In 1931, abandoned after their mother’s suicide, Junan and Yinan make a pact never to leave each other. The two sisters are inseparable until Junan falls in love with a soldier. When the Japanese invade China, unable to follow her husband to the wartime capital, Junan makes the fateful decision to send her sister after him.
By Da Chen
During the Cultural Revolution, Tan is the heir of a general but his illegitimate half brother Shento is abandoned. After Chairman Mao’s death, Tan flees and builds a business, while Shento prospers in the army. Their lives converge at Tiananmen Square.
A Thread of Sky
By Deanna Fei
Widowed by a devastating accident and unable bear to her grief alone, Chinese American Irene Shen reunites three generations of fiercely independent women from her estranged family including her mother, sister and daughters during a tour of mainland China.
One Man’s Bible
By Xingjian Gao
Nobel Prize-winner Gao presents this fictionalized autobiographical account of life during China’s Cultural Revolution. A dissident artist and intellectual revisits memories of labor-reform school, several love affairs and the political turmoil of Mao’s brutal Communist regime.
Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth
By Xiaolu Guo
After the Cultural Revolution, Fenfang, a young peasant, leaves her rural village to travel 1,800 miles to pursue her dreams in Beijing. Setting out to live a modern life, she lands a job as a film extra, falls under the spell of two unsuitable young men and finally finds her true calling in an unexpected place.
The Love Wife
By Gish Jen
Chinese American Carnegie Wong, his Caucasian wife, two adopted Asian daughters and their biological son cope with the arrival from China of Lan, Carnegie’s mysterious female relative. But Lan’s ambiguous intentions and “nanny” status disrupt the Wong household.
By Ha Jin
Jin’s story of Chinese life and love centers on a man living in two worlds, struggling with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women. He moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his every move and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart.
The Middle Heart
By Bette Bao Lord
During the turbulent 1930s in China, three outcasts are fatefully bound by their steadfast patriotism. Steel Hope, an undesired second son of a fallen family, is assigned a tutor, Mountain Pine, whose leg is malformed. They join forces with Firecrackers, an orphaned girl, in decades of struggle to survive under the Communist regime.
Under Fishbone Clouds
By Sam Meekings
Through Chinese history, myth and culture, this novel tells the story of a young Chinese couple as their love grows and is tested during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, illuminating the birth of modern China.
By Lisa See
In 1937 Shanghai, after their gambling father loses everything, beautiful Pearl and May Chin are married off to two Chinese brothers living in Los Angeles. Escaping from the invading Japanese, the sisters arrive in California and experience unexpected difficulties as they adapt to a new life.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
By Dai Sijie
Two privileged teenage boys are sent to a remote village for re-education during China’s Cultural Revolution. When they procure a supply of French books, they read novels to a pretty but uneducated seamstress, with surprising results.
Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet
In 1950s China, doctors Kejun and Wen are newlyweds when husband Kejun joins the People’s Liberation Army and travels to Tibet. Two months later, news of Kejun’s death drives Wen to search for him. She spends 30 harsh years in Tibet before finally learning Kejun’s fate.
Short Fiction for the Whole Family
The power of short stories to amaze, amuse and affect knows no boundaries; and here are some of the very best (short) masterpieces for the whole family.
Free?: Stories Celebrating Human Rights
Edited by Amnesty International
What a Song Can Do: 12 Riffs on the Power of Music
Edited by Jennifer Armstrong
Am I Blue?: Coming Out from the Silence
Edited by Marion Dane Bauer
How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity
Edited by Michael Cart
Necessary Noise: Stories About Our Families as They Really Are
Edited by Michael Cart
An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio
By Judith Ortiz Cofer
You Don’t Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys
By Sharon G. Flake
First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants
Edited by Donald R. Gallo
Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
Edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones
Friends: Stories about New Friends, Old Friends and Unexpectedly True Friends
Edited by Ann M. Martin and David Levithan
Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits
By Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson
Porch Lies: Tales of Slicksters, Tricksters and Other Wily Characters
By Patricia C. McKissack
Baseball Crazy: Ten Short Stories That Cover All the Bases
Edited by Nancy E. Mercado
Every Man for Himself: Ten Short Stories About Being a Guy
Edited by Nancy E. Mercado
Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope
By Beverley Naidoo
Gothic!: Ten Original Dark Tales
Edited by Deborah Noyes
Paintings from the Cave: Three Novellas
By Gary Paulsen
Shelf Life: Stories by the Book
By Gary Paulsen
Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales
By Tamora Pierce
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
By J.K. Rowling
Finding Our Way: Stories
By René Saldaña, Jr.
Winning Words: Sports Stories and Photographs
By Charles R. Smith, Jr.
Facts of Life: Stories
By Gary Soto
By Robert D. San Souci
Tales from Outer Suburbia
By Shaun Tan
For More about Yiyun Li
“From the Vault: Yiyun Li”
By Desiree Andrews
Tin House, October 13, 2011
Li wrote this essay on village literature, William Trevor and family ghosts.
“Eat, Memory: Orange Crush”
By Yiyun Li
New York Times Magazine, January 22, 2006
Li described her childhood memories of orange peel and fascination with an exotic American import—Tang.
The Lit Show, Interview with Yiyun Lu
The Lit Show is a weekly literary radio show based at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and broadcast on KRUI Radio in Iowa City. Founded in January 2010 by host Joe Fassler, The Lit Show features interviews with writers, readings and performance, reviews and literary news.
For More on the History of and Contemporary Life in China
“Poverty, Desperation Said Driving China’s Surrogacy Boom”
BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific, August 15, 2010
“A Pinker Shade of Chinese Red”
By Dinah Gardner
Advocate, Summer 2008
“China’s Stolen Sons”
By Andrew Jacobs
New York Times Upfront, Vol. 142, Iss. 4/5; October 26-November 9, 2009