Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Three top books on China

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka named three of the best books on China. One title on the list:
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

Li's prizewinning debut collection of 10 stories delves into the lives of everyday Chinese – both at home and in the US – struggling to cope with a fast-changing, new China.

In Extra, Granny Lin finds herself without a job or a pension after being laid off ("honourably retired", in official parlance) from her state-owned garment factory, which has gone bust. She ends up working as a maid at a boarding school.

In Son, an emigrant returns from the US to find that his mother has forsaken Mao for Jesus. He, meanwhile, has to tell her that he is no longer traditional marriage material (a Chinese-American "diamond bachelor") because he is gay.

In immortality, the most ambitious and overtly political story, a boy is born with Mao's face and is used to impersonate him in propaganda films.

Using beautifully pared-down prose, Li illustrates how the personal, political and past bear down on her protagonists' often precarious lives and make happiness elusive. These provocative and poignant portraits offer a kaleidoscope of characters who give us an inside view of China today.

Li grew up in Beijing, leaving after university to study in the US where she now lives.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue