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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: china, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 238
1. Going Global



I received some great news from my publisher that all of my books are going to be available for sale in China and other Asian markets.  Guardian Angel Publishing has finished negotiating with an agent to distribute English language books.  This is coupled with a mandate in China that all school children should learn English.  So I’m really excited that my books will be open to such a huge market.  Also in the works is distribution to India and other emerging markets where my books are not available.  I’ll keep you posted on any further developments.  But I couldn’t wait to spread the word.  How cool is that?

0 Comments on Going Global as of 4/14/2014 1:43:00 PM
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2. My First Book of Chinese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book | Book Review

This unique and charming alphabet book uses rhymes and fact snippets to introduce Chinese words to a pre-schooler. The words are written in Pinyin, a sound system using Roman letters to write Chinese sounds. Words introduced are significant in Chinese culture, but relatable in any culture.

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3. Peter the Brazen

I’m finally done with Peter the Brazen, and I feel I can say definitively now that it is the worst. The worst. I hardly know what else to say about it, or how to catalog its various failings.

I thought I was going to enjoy this book. Peter Moore is a wireless operator, and he’s the best wireless operator. He can hear things no one else can hear, and other wireless operator recognize…I don’t know, the inflections of his Morse code, or something. And he doesn’t have a lean, sardonic countenance, but he does have a tendency to smile inappropriately, which practically amounts to the same thing. So, all of that boded well. And I was prepared for some racism, because this is the kind of book where the existence of actual Asian people is completely irrelevant to the glamour of Asia. But in general I thought that this book wouldn’t be very good, but that I would enjoy it.

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.

We can start with the racism, which is of the “protagonist who supposedly knows China like the back of his hand can’t tell the difference between people from Asian countries” variety. There was a Eurasian girl who wasn’t evil, and maybe one or two Chinese people who were well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful, but as a whole, George F. Worts paints the entire population of a continent as pretty much worthless. Not that he has a very high opinion of humanity in general — I saw here the same kind of cynicism that made me uncomfortable in Girl Alone. He also gets in some jabs at Dutch people – no discernible traits besides being boring and liking to eat — and Mexicans — the “fiery gladness” of knocking a “greaser” into the ocean. There’s not anything in particular I can pick out to take issue with, just grindingly awful racial determinism throughout.

As bad as the racism and xenophobia were, the misogyny was worse. Peter Moore is apparently irresistible to women, but I’m not sure why. I mean, if two women have similar coloring he can’t tell the difference between them (even if he’s in love with one of them), and if they’re “exotic” he makes up stories about them for his own amusement, and if a woman tells him her husband beats her, he doesn’t believe it until he sees the bruises and then asks her why, as if she must have done something to deserve it. Which I guess makes sense, since he mostly views women as men’s possessions anyway.

Worts credits him with  “quaint, mid-Victorian views regarding woman,” and if mid-Victorian views regarding women consist of distrusting them and treating them as objects then, yeah, he does, but I don’t know why we’re supposed to like him for it.  I kept thinking of a quote from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: “I’m told the women literally bow down before him, if that’s what women do.” Women do literally bow down before Peter Moore in this book, but no, that’s not what women do.

Then there’s the writing, which is terrible on two levels. At the sentence level, it’s hideously flowery. People who refer to guns as “blue steel” already have a mark against them in my book, but that’s just the beginning of Worts’ excessive reliance on colors for description. I think my favorite bit was the number of synonyms for “red” he used in describing a cinnabar mining city. Here is a bit of it: “And instantly he was obsessed with the flaming color of that man’s unappeased passion. Red—red! The hovels were spattered with the red clay. The man, the skinny, wretched creature who begged for a moment of his gracious mercy at the gate, dripped in ruby filth. The mule sank and wallowed in vermilion mire.”

There are a lot of bits like that.

My favorite sentence, though, was one of the less flowery ones: “And Peter was all alone, although his aloneness was modified to a certain extent by the corpse at his feet. “

The language is hilariously terrible, but everything else is just terrible. I don’t know what to call the other level on which the writing is terrible. Plot? Character development? Basic logic? It’s probably all of the above. The way people act just doesn’t make sense. The omniscient third person narration says things that exist in an alternate reality where it does make sense. Peter spends a lot of the climactic action scenes unconscious, although I guess that’s for the best.

And nothing is ever resolved or explained. Like, Peter spends the entire book trying to figure out why the guy who rules the city of Len Yang keeps kidnapping beautiful young women to work in his mines. And I would still kind of like to know why, but I suspect that there isn’t actually a reason. If there is one, Worts certainly doesn’t let us in on it.

There were moments, even halfway through the book, when I though the whole thing might genuinely be a joke, it made so little sense. It’s not just the usual thing where an author ascribes to a protagonist all sorts of qualities that they don’t actually seem to have. It’s a more far-reaching version of that, where you can tell the author is ascribing to the narrative all sorts of things that aren’t there. I mean, it’s also got the thing where the protagonist is supposed to be super competent but in practice is terrible at everything, but that’s sort of commonplace compared to the whole story’s weird, disjointed, “does George F. Worts understand how events are supposed to follow each other” quality.

So, uh, yeah. This book is objectively terrible. It’s also subjectively terrible. Don’t read it. The bits that are terrible in a funny way aren’t worth it.


Tagged: 1910s, adventure, china, georgefworts, stupid

9 Comments on Peter the Brazen, last added: 4/11/2014
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4. In Honor of Family


Photograph by David Schlatter

My first book, At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui, describes a woman and her elaborate tomb─the memorial created by a grieving family. Writing this book was not only a fascinating intellectual endeavor for me, but also a personal journey of connection to my extended family and our ancestors.

After growing up in China, my parents immigrated to America in 1946. My brothers and I were born in the Northeast, and then we moved to the Midwest when I was three years old. So I grew up far from the land of my heritage. 

But every summer we drove from Kansas City to Toronto for reunions with our extended family. (My father's parents and siblings had also immigrated to the USA or to Canada.) There I was aware of belonging to a large family, a long history, and a complex culture beyond my everyday life. I was surrounded by my grandparents, uncles, and aunts chatting in Cantonese while I played with my cousins. I was introduced to dimsum—small plates of juicy dumplings, steamed buns, and other mouthwatering treats—plucked from carts rolling between a restaurant's giant round tables. I remember my grandfather giving me candy from a secret cache high on his closet shelf, but I also sensed that the entire family treated him as the most honored member.

When I was a mother with two young children, my own mother died. My parents always being there had been my secure foundation, but that shifted with her death, leaving a hole of grief and vulnerability in my life.

In November 1999, I traveled with my father to Taiwan and China. Serendipitously I stumbled upon a special exhibit of Han dynasty artifacts at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. This was the first time I had ever heard of the three tombs of Mawangdui, but I was immediately hooked on learning more about them. Who were the mother, father, and son buried in the tombs? Why would their family bury them with so many treasures, including personal items like the mother's cosmetics case, the father's signature seals, and the son's zither? 

The next week, we journeyed to the southern Chinese village where my father's family has lived since the late 1500's. Along with two dozen relatives living in or near the village, we visited the cemetery where four generations of our ancestors are buried. In front of their niches, we lit candles and incense, offered food and drink, and burned mock money and paper clothes—modern versions of rituals performed for thousands of years. I was struck by the realization of being connected to these people whom I'd never met, yet were literally part of me.

After lighting candles and incense, we set out food and drink in front of our ancestor's niches.


Three years later in June 2002, my father took me, my brothers, and our families to visit his homeland. We entered the Forbidden City, inspected the First Emperor's terracotta troops, sailed down the Yangzi River, and saw where my parents had lived and been schooled.  

I took a side trip to Changsha to see the Mawangdui tomb site and the many artifacts in the Hunan Provincial Museum. By then, I had studied enough about Mawangdui to be completely agog at seeing the silk-draped body of Lady Dai and the cavernous tomb of her son.

The following day twenty-one of us from America and ten of us from China met at the same cemetery I had visited before. My daughters, nieces, and nephews participated for their first time in the traditional rituals of lighting candles and incense, offering food and drink, and burning mock money and paper clothes. I marveled at the continuity of life that bound us together across centuries and continents: four generations of living descendants paying our respects to four generations of ancestors. As I watched the smoke from the burning paper rise into the sky, I saw an image in my mind of an endless queue of our ancestors winding across the cemetery.

It is believed that burning mock money and other paper goods sends them to the ancestors. 

 
Through seeing artifacts from the Mawangdui tombs and performing rituals at my ancestors' graves, I could imagine the family of Lady Dai expressing their love and respect in creating an elaborate tomb for her. I could identify with her family through my experiences of missing my own mother and of honoring my ancestors. And through learning about Lady Dai and her world, I understand more of the history and meaning behind the rituals my family performs to commemorate our loved ones.

*****

Posted by Christine Liu-Perkins, author of At Home in Her Tomb, which releases on April 8, 2014. Find out more about her at www.christineliuperkins.com.

0 Comments on In Honor of Family as of 3/31/2014 1:43:00 PM
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5. First Look at $2.4 Billion Oriental DreamWorks Complex in Shanghai

Last week DreamWorks revealed the first renderings of the Dream Center, a 40-acre, $2.4 billion development in Shanghai, China. Scheduled to open in 2017 (or early-2018), the site will house the Oriental DreamWorks production studio, which is currently working on "Kung Fu Panda 3," as well as the world's largest IMAX screen, eight outdoor plazas, hotels, restaurants, theaters, galleries, and tourist attractions.

0 Comments on First Look at $2.4 Billion Oriental DreamWorks Complex in Shanghai as of 3/24/2014 1:51:00 AM
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6. ‘This is Not a Time to Lie’ by Lei Lei

A hallucinatory short that follows a doe-eyed protagonist on a quest through an imagined world, and was created using vintage book covers, a motif that director Lei Lei inherited from his graphic-designer father. “No plots, storyboards, or scripts were involved,” says the director.

0 Comments on ‘This is Not a Time to Lie’ by Lei Lei as of 3/23/2014 2:37:00 AM
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7. Beyond the Moongate: True Stories of 1920s China, by Elizabeth Quan | Book Review

Quan’s watercolor paintings bring each anecdote to life in brilliant jewel tones and with quirky humor. This is a beautiful book for families to share and for individual readers to revisit.

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8. “Stammer” by Shen Jie

A man plus an ice cream cone is not the recipe for tension-filled drama unless the film is Stammer. This playful experimental piece by Chinese animator Shen Jie (b. 1989) reveals its story through a single repeating action that builds incrementally. The sound design adds the right touch of humor to complete the idea.

(h/t, Caleb Wood)

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9. DreamWorks Animation’s Chinese Arm Announces Live-Action Movie Franchise

DreamWorks Animation is moving into live-action. At a Beijing news conference last week, Jeffrey Katzenberg announced a co-production agreement between Oriental DreamWorks and the Chinese state-owned China Film Group Corp. The deal will result in a movie franchise based on the bestselling Chinese book series Tibet Code.

Katzenberg said that the film will become “China’s Indiana Jones,” while China Film Group chairman Han Sanping proclaimed that the film’s “characters represent traditional Chinese culture and Chinese morality.”

The Wall Street Journal offers the most in-depth piece I’ve read about the new Tibet Code deal. In the same article, they report that Oriental DreamWorks is taking the lead on the production of Kung Fu Panda 3.

0 Comments on DreamWorks Animation’s Chinese Arm Announces Live-Action Movie Franchise as of 4/21/2013 11:36:00 PM
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10. What does the future hold for international arbitration?

How can we outline the discussion on the law and practice of international arbitration? What is the legal process for the drafting of the arbitration agreements or the enforcement of arbitral awards? Long-time international arbitrators Constantine Partasides, Alan Redfern, and Martin Hunters — co-authors of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration: Fifth Edition with Nigel Blackaby — sat down with the OUPblog to discuss the latest developments in their field. Watch the following videos to learn more about current views on international arbitration and what changes they expect to see in the future.

How did the idea of writing a book come about?

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What challenges are arbitrators facing now?

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How do you view the future of international commercial arbitration? 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Nigel Blackaby, Constantine Partasides, Alan Redfern, and Martin Hunter are the authors of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration: Fifth Edition. Nigel Blackaby is one of the partners of the international arbitration group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Washington, DC. Constantine Partasides is a one of the partners of the international arbitration group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London. Alan Redfern is the barrister and international arbitrator at One Essex Court Chambers in London. Martin Hunter is currently a barrister and international arbitrator at One Essex Court Chambers.

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0 Comments on What does the future hold for international arbitration? as of 2/18/2013 6:47:00 AM
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11. Ordering off the menu in China debates

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom


Growing up with no special interest in China, one of the few things I associated with the country was mix and match meal creation. On airplanes and school cafeterias, you just have “chicken or beef” choices, but Chinese restaurants were “1 from Column A, 1 from Column B” domains. If only in recent China debates, a similar readiness to think beyond either/or options prevailed!

I thought of this when Reuters ran an assessment of Xi Jinping’s first weeks in power last months that in some venues carried this “chicken or beef” sort of headline: “China’s New Leader: Reformist or Conservative?” Previous Chinese leaders have often turned out to have both reformist and conservative sides. Even Deng Xiaoping, considered the quintessential reformer due to his economic policies, held the line on political liberalization and backed the brutal 1989 crackdown. Mightn’t Xi, too, end up ordering from the reformist and conservative sides of the menu?

A Valentine’s Day for the books: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of a Chinese delegation in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012, several months before Xi became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize win last fall, which continues to generate controversy, led some foreign commentators into a similar “chicken or beef” trap—or, rather, an “Ai Weiwei or Zhang Yimou” one. The former is an artist locked into an antagonistic relationship with the government, the latter a filmmaker who has been choreographing spectacles celebrating Communist Party rule, including both the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Games and a 2009 gala staged to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Since they are two of the only internationally prominent Chinese creative figures, some Westerners assumed Mo must be like one or the other.

In fact, the novelist shares traits with each but isn’t all that similar to either.  Like China’s best-known artist, Mo has a penchant for mocking the powerful. And like the renowned filmmaker turned state choreographer, Mo works within the system, serving as a Vice-Chairman of the official writer’s association and recently agreeing to be a delegate to the Chinese People’s Consultative Political Conference. Unlike Ai Weiwei, though, Mo skewers only relatively safe targets, like the kinds of corrupt local officials that the central authorities don’t mind seeing satirized, and instead of railing against censorship, he has likened it to an inconvenience akin to airport security protocols. And unlike Zhang Yimou, one of whose best films was based on the novelist’s story “Red Sorghum,” Mo has consistently produced iconoclastic works.

If Column A choices signal compliance and Column B ones criticism, the artist and filmmaker now stick to opposite sides of the menu, while Mo Yan keeps choosing from both—and he’s not alone in this. Yu Hua, an author whose political choices I find more admirable, does this as well. He belongs to the official writer’s association and his novels, like Mo’s, generally satirize relatively safe targets.  But Yu also pens trenchant essays on taboo topics, including the 1989 massacre. He’s frustrated that these can only be published abroad, but glad that they end up circulating on the mainland in underground digital versions.

A third debate, centering on the competing predictions made by “When China Rules the World” author Martin Jacques and “The Coming Collapse of China” author Gordon G. Chang, makes me think not of the value of combining Column A and Column B choices but of a different feature of Chinese restaurants that I only learned about as an adult. If you don’t like the options on the English language menu in some Chinatown eateries, you can ask to see a Chinese language one that lists additional dishes the proprietor doubts will interest most customers.

My problem with the Jacques vs. Chang debate is that I find neither pundit convincing.  Jacques’ vision of China moving smoothly toward global domination glosses over the fissures within the country’s elite and the many domestic challenges its government faces. Chang continually underestimates the Communist Party’s resiliency and adaptability.  His 2001 book said it would implode by 2011. Late in 2011, he told Foreign Policy readers that he’d miscalculated and they could “bet on” his prophecy coming true in 2012.  In 2013, the Communist Party is still in control and somehow Chang’s still being invited onto news shows to make forecasts.

When asked whether Xi Jinping is a reformer or a conservative and whether Mo Yan is a collaborator or a critic, I can craft an answer that draws a bit from both Column A and Column B  Being asked whether I side with Jacques or Chang is different. I’m left feeling like a hungry vegetarian who has been given a list made up exclusively of chicken and beef dishes—and hopes desperately that there’s another menu hidden in the back with some acceptable choices.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History at University of California at Irvine, is the author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (2010), an updated edition of which will be published in June.

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The post Ordering off the menu in China debates appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. The House Baba Built: An Artists Childhood in China by Ed Young

 About a year ago, I reviewed Allen Say's autobiographical work Drawing from Memory and the effect World War II had on his life growing up in Yokohama, Japan.  Ed Young's The House Baba Built is also an autobiographical work and describes his life in Shanghai, China during the war.

Ed Young's father was an engineer and realizing that war was coming to China, he decided he needed a safe place for himself, his wife and five children to live in.  The safest place would be around the foreign embassies in Shanghai, known as the International Settlement.  But land there was expensive and so Baba (an affectionate term for father) made a deal with a landowner - Baba would built a house on his land with the proviso that his family could live in it for 20 years.  The family moved into the house in 1935 and for the first few years that they lived in Baba's house, life was good.  There was a lovely swimming pool, where friends and family would gather in summer, there was lots of pretend playing, lovely gardens and even a roof that made a great roller skating area.  Life wasn't rich in goods, but it was rich in so many other ways.

But when the Japanese invaded Nanking in 1937, Baba had to build an apartment where the kids roller skated because relatives from there had escaped to Shanghai to live.  After that, the effects of the war began to be felt more and more.  And in 1940 a family who had escaped Hitler's Germany, the Luedeckes, also moved into Baba's house.

The three families living in Baba's house were very fortunate.  Even after things changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the loss of British and American protection, the house that Baba built was able to withstand the war, and even when bombs were being dropped directly on Shanghai, they missed the house completely.

When the 20 years were up, the Young family honored their contract and turned the house over to the landowner.  By then, most of the children had grown, married and gone their own way.

It was during the war, living in Baba's house, that Young discovered his talent as an artist.  Given crayons and paper to use while recovering from a cold, his first attempt at drawing was a cowboy that didn't quite match what was in his mind.  But he sought guidance and the rest is history.  For The House Baba Built, he used a mixed media, which gives it depth and texture.  Young's family is shown in an interesting combination of old photographs and drawings, there are all kinds of collages (my favorite art form), and some of the pages fold out to reveal even more of the life of the Young family in Baba's house.

Most of the book consists of vignettes that are put together to resemble the collages, rather than a linear history of Young's early life.  However, there is a timeline at the end which can help orient the reader if needed.  And there is an extended section at the end of the book of later photographs, including Baba's house, as well as a diagram of the house and some facts regarding how the house was built to bombproof it.

All in all, The House Baba Built is an interesting book for all kinds of readers, but especially a reader who likes to explore each and every page of an illustrated book.  This is a work that proves itself to be an insightful look at some of the early influences on a beloved author/illustrator.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was borrowed from the Webster Branch of the NYPL


Facts First! Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by ProseandKahn



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13. Bamboo

Bamboo

In a Chinese village, Bamboo, a simple farmer, falls in love with a peasant girl, Ming, and soon they are married. To celebrate the wedding, the newlyweds plant a grove of bamboo. When Bamboo goes to the New World to seek his fortune, his new wife is left behind to till the fields. Ming soon discovers that the bamboo she brought as a gift to her new husband is magic...

If you liked this, try:
Liang and the Magic Paintbrush
One Grain of Rice
The Lost Horse
The Magic Tapestry
Seven Chinese Sisters
 

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14. OMG! *gasp* *sob*


Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2 Oct. 2012)

I cannot even begin to express all my fangirl feelings right now.

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15. Fox and Phoenix

Fox and Phoenix Beth Bernobich

The king is dying and the princess isn't responding to her messages. The Ghost Dragon King sends Kai and Yun to the heart of the Phoenix Empire to bring the princess home from university. But there are forces that don't want Kai and Yun to reach the princess, and, once they do, forces that won't let her leave.

Magic + steampunk + court intrigue + a Chinese fantasy setting = OH YES.

The set up to this story is one that you'll love or hate, depending. Basically, it reads like a sequel, but it's not. Kai and his friends met the Princess a year ago, when they helped her find her heart's desire. It sounded like a basic fairy tale set-up, doing impossible tasks to win her hand, but her heart's desire was to study politics before taking the throne. No one got her hand, the street gang was rewarded handsomely and the princess got to go to college. Win win. But... this is the story about what happens next. The money has changed Kai and his friends. They used it to escape the streets, but their group has drifted and things have shifted and changed. For Kai, it seemed easier then.

I LOVED this. I've often wanted a story about what happens next or what about the other people caught up in some epic battle, not the hero? I like how we jumped in, between big adventures. But, I can see that some people might really hate the same thing.

I liked how it was magical steampunk. The technology felt like futuristic steampunk, but magic was what it ran on, plus standard fantasy magic. And spirit animals.

Oh yes, and China. That's always a major plus in my book. I do like China.

And the cover is awesome.

I will say it took me awhile to get into it. The first 100 pages were a bit slow, but I'll admit that might have been my mood when I read it. After that though, I had a hard time putting it down. Very fun.

Book Provided by... my local library

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1 Comments on Fox and Phoenix, last added: 4/25/2012
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16. Interview with Jeannie Lin, Author of My Fair Concubine

Jeannie Lin is the author of My Fair Concubine, a Harlequin Historical with a oh so pretty cover.  This is her third book set in during the Tang Dynasty.  I get exhausted by the number of Regency romances released every month, so it’s exciting to see a historical romance that tackles a different time period, as well as a setting other than Europe or the American West.  I was delighted when Jeannie took the time to drop by the virtual offices to chat about her book – check out what she has to say!  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jeannie Lin] Twin mommy and ex-high school science/technology teacher turned romance author. I’m a bit of a geek and a sentimental fool.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about  My Fair Concubine?

[Jeannie Lin] My Fair Concubine is a Tang Dynasty twist on the classic "My Fair Lady." In the 9th century, the Chinese imperial court would send "princesses" off to foreign kingdoms in a practice called heqin, which means peace marriage. What the barbarians didn’t know was that these princesses were often concubines or daughters of noble families rather than true royalty. In My Fair Concubine, Fei Long is a nobleman who’s been put into a difficult position and has to train a tea house girl to become such an alliance bride. During the process, the two of them start falling in love, of course.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jeannie Lin] The My Fair Lady concept is a classic one for romance. It has wonderful elements of class conflict and commentary. For me, the idea actually revolved around first my research into the practice of heqin. Also, I knew that in Chinese opera, men traditionally played the female roles. I started forming this idea of a nobleman and his friends trying to train a commoner and a scene of a male actor trying to teach a young woman how to act, ironically, like a woman stuck with me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

[Jeannie Lin] This book was a little bit of a departure from my previous two novels. It was lighter in tone with some comic elements. I wanted to balance humor with deep emotion and historical detail. The sexual tension in the story was also understated and I wanted the right touch of romance. So the big challenge for me was how to execute this balancing act in a way that still yielded an emotionally satisfying and interesting story.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Yan Ling?

[Jeannie Lin] Hard-working, eager, lively

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Fei Long would never eat with his tea?

[Jeannie Lin] Hee hee…
Crab Rangoon, General Tso’s Chicken, Crumpets (because none of these are Chinese)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jeannie Lin] I’m hugely influenced by the wuxia genre, specifically the movie adaptations of the books of Jin Yong. I also read Chinese poetry translated in English to get a feel for how the language is translated. Very often, I’ll get inspiration from the poetry, either from the tone, the imagery, or the subject matter. Historical research gives me many ideas, of course. And then the historical romance genre to top it all off. I love the sweeping historical romances that are full of adventure and angst.  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in

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17. Week-end Book Review: The Water Dragon by Li Jian

Li Jian,
The Water Dragon
Better Link Press, 2012.

Ages: 4+

Every day Ah Bao collects firewood in the forest near his tiny mountain village.  He carries a small ax and a rice crock made from a gourd. One day, Ah Bao notices a shiny red pebble on the ground and puts it in his rice crock. As soon as he does this, the crock begins to shake and rattle, and before he knows it, the crock is overflowing with more rice than Ah Bao could ever eat.

When he gets home he realizes that the stone has the same effect on money!  Now Ah Bao and his neighbors are never hungry or poor, but it hasn’t rained in the village since he found the magic stone. Ah Bao places the stone inside a bucket of water in the hope that it will overflow, but instead, the stone absorbs all the water in the bucket.  The next day, Ah Bao goes in search of the water dragon he dreams about, hoping he will convince it to shower his village with water once again.

Along the way, Ah Bao meets several animals caught up in trying predicaments.  He helps each of them and is rewarded in turn.  Each animal also warns Ah Bao that he will soon meet “a greedy red monster.” Undaunted, Ah Bao moves on.  When he finally meets the monster, both Ah Bao and the reader are surprised at how he handles the situation and the turn of events that follows. Ah Bao becomes a hero, but not as we might have expected!

This remarkable book is experienced illustrator Li Jian’s first foray into writing his own picture book. The story was inspired by legends he heard his elders tell when he was a child.  The pictures, which combine Li’s classical training in Chinese painting with his talent for bringing fairy tales to life, are at least as compelling as the bilingual text (in English and simplified Chinese characters).  Ah Bao is both a courageous and humble hero with a big heart and a sense of responsibility. He will be admired by children and parents, who will doubtless look forward to Li Jian’s next solo offering.

Abigail Sawyer
May 2012

N.B. Li Jian’s illustration work is currently highlighted in PaperTigers’ Illustrator Gallery.

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18. Midnight in Peking

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China Paul French

It's taken me a few days for me to say anything about this book besides "I just... wow. I mean, it's just, Beijing and... wow. I mean... wow." And that goes for the rather explosive content and also the way French can spin out a story. (I mean, wow.)

In early January, 1937, the night of Russian Christmas, Pamela Werner was murdered. Horrifically. Her body was found the next morning outside the supposedly haunted Fox Tower in Beijing.* She lived with her father in the Tartar city, just outside the Foreign Legation, so the investigation is under the control of the Chinese police. But she's a British subject, the daughter of a former British Consul, and this isn't an average robbery gone wrong. To get around the British legation promoting an envoy to the case that they would control, the Chinese police appoint a detective from Tianjin, where Pamela went to boarding school. DCI Dennis was former Scotland Yard and wasn't under the legation's control. His hands were tied by the British as to what he could and couldn't do, but he wouldn't get in the way of the investigation.

But the British want to save face and hinder things at every turn. The Consul in Beijing has a personal dislike of Werner's father. National and personal politics play large. The White Russians who run the Badlands, the strip of seedy dive bars, opium dens, and brothels between the Legation Quarter and the Tartar city, aren't talking. In Tianjin, Pamela was a quiet school girl. In Beijing, she had several boyfriends and liked to party. Meanwhile, the Japanese are surrounding the city and getting ever closer. Everyone's fleeing-- either the investigation or the threat of war.

The murder remains unsolved, and the case technically open, but no one working on it. Pamela's father starts his own investigation and gathers his own evidence and reaches his own conclusions about who murdered his daughter. The Japanese get involved. Then they're not. Different personal and national politics at play, but they still have a major role in the investigation. Pamela's father has a compelling case to make against his main suspect (one that French agrees with) but the Consul and London are ignoring his pleas and evidence. Personal politics make it easy to write him off. The war makes it easy for his files and notes to get shoved in a drawer and lost (until French found them in an uncataloged file at The British National Archive in Kew.)

Was it the KMT? The Japanese? A jealous boyfriend? Was it a message to someone else? Or something far more sinister? (Answer: far far far more sinister.)

Secret nudist colonies, stateless prostitutes, political assassinations, and cocktail hours spent at smoky back tables gathering gossip, rumor, clues and evidence, Shura**... and a world on the brink of war. Basically, but John LeCarre and Eileen Chang in a blender and make the result a true story, and you get Midnight in Peking.

French has a gift for spinning out the suspense and tension. He deftly explains the back-history and the politics, making it understandable so the rea

2 Comments on Midnight in Peking, last added: 6/13/2012
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19. Lots of Noise, But No One in the Room

“There is a great deal of noise on the stairs but nobody comes into the room.”
– John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy was referencing a Chinese proverb when he said that, making the point that it was easy to talk about problems, but much more difficult to fix them.

Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO, is in China herself this week, addressing the World Economic Forum’s ‘Annual Meeting of the New Champions’ in Tianjin, the foremost gathering of business and nonprofit leaders in Asia. She’s there to talk about subjects near and dear to our hearts – social entrepreneurship and social impact investing.

How First Book is making a differenceSocial entrepreneurship is a new way of doing business, a hybrid of traditional nonprofits and for-profit companies that uses market forces to create social change. (Click here to read a recent blog post by Kyle where she explains what social entrepreneurship is and how it can change the world.)

Social impact investing is a related concept; the idea of channeling investment toward mission-driven businesses and entrepreneurial nonprofits that are working to solve social problems.

As Kyle says in a piece published today in the Huffington Post and on the World Economic Forum’s blog:

Fundamentally there are holes on both the investor side and the social entrepreneur’s side of the aisle.

On the investor side, there is far more talk than there is traction. Certainly, a few funds have been established that focus on social investment, but it is difficult to see these as more than traditional charity, dressed up as investment.

Creative new designs in the financial category to address this need have been discussed for years, but few have made it to market. This lack of significant innovation by the investment community has been a major roadblock to the expansion of the social sector. Enterprises reach a certain level of growth and then choke from the lack of capital.

Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First BookLike any new idea, there’s a lot of work to be done. But Kyle is hopeful about the future, saying: “There we were all in a room at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions – financial institutions and representatives of the social sector — talking about the challenges, which is a great step toward a cure.”

At First Book, we’re working towards a new kind of solution to an old and intractable problem – how to ensure that the 30 million kids in the United States living in low-income families get the books and resources they need to succeed. Click here to learn some ways you can get involved.

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20. Starry River of the Sky - a review

Lin, Grace. 2012. Starry River of the Sky. New York: Little Brown.

A companion book to Grace Lin's 2009, Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Starry River of the Sky is much the same and yet very different. Like the earlier book, Starry River of the Sky contains Grace Lin’s beautiful artwork (see note), features folktale vignettes, and revolves around a journey.  But while Minli’s journey in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is an actual journey full of obstacles to overcome, main character, Rendi’s journey, in Starry River of the Sky, is an introspective journey of understanding and self-discovery.

The story opens with a miserable and distressed Rendi traveling as a stowaway in a merchant’s cart,

Rendi was not sure how long the moon had been missing.  He knew only that for weeks, the wind seemed to be whimpering as if the sky were suffering.  At first, he had thought the moans were his own because his whole body ached from hiding in the merchant’s cart.  However, it was when the cart had stopped for the evening, when the bumping and knocking had ended, that the groans began.
Rendi’s story is tied inexorably to that of the moon, though it will take some time for him to determine why the moon is missing and why he, and he alone hears the moaning of the sky each night.  He is discovered by the merchant and left in a dying town, the Village of Clear Sky.  With no other prospects, he becomes the chore boy for Master Chao, owner of the local inn.  Master Chao’s daughter,  Peiyi, takes an immediate dislike to the sullen young boy. It is not until the mysterious Madame Chang, the inn’s only guest, arrives, that fortunes begin to change.  Madame Chang is a beautiful and captivating storyteller, recounting age-old folktales that have particular significance to Rendi; the neighbor, Widow Yan, and her daughter; and Mr. Shan, an elderly, doddering dinner guest who frequents the Inn.  As Madame Chang shares her stories and encourages Rendi to do the same, his protective layer of insolence is removed like layers of skin from an onion.  Starry Village of the Sky is many-layered as well - each character has a hidden story that is coaxed out by the storytelling of Madame Chang.

This is a captivating story that, while holding deep meaning, may be enjoyed in many layers. A magical fantasy, a Chinese folktale, a tale of a boy lost and found, a love story, a mystery, a journey of self-discovery -- all may be found in the tiny and remote Village of Clear Sky.

Starry River of the Sky is another star-filled book for Grace Lin, already garnering three starred reviews and a Junior Library Guild selection.


Note: My Advance Reader Copy did not contain finished artwork, but I am confident that it will be both beautiful and magical.

Want a peek at the artwork?  Watch Grace Lin flip through her book!

“Behind Starry River of the Sky

More reviews @

Due on shelves in October, 2012.

1 Comments on Starry River of the Sky - a review, last added: 9/23/2012
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21. It’s the book trailer to award winning author Grace Lin’s new novel Starry River of the Sky!

Just released today it’s the book trailer to Grace Lin‘s newest novel Starry River of the Sky! Already receiving rave reviews, Starry River of the Sky is the companion book to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon which was awarded the prestigious Newbery Honor Award in 2010. Starry River of the Sky officially launches October 2nd but for those of you that just can’t wait to get a copy it is already available on Amazon or, if you reside near Cambridge, MA, you can attend the  booklaunch this Sunday, September 30th and get a signed copy! Be sure to visit Grace’s blog on October 2nd and join in the online launch party! Grace will also be going on a short, 3 stop book tour in October to promote the book. Why such a short tour? Not only is Grace celebrating the launch of her new book, she and her husband just celebrated the birth of her first child, a daughter, a mere 4 months ago! Congratulations Grace!

NB: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was one of the books we selected to be included in our 2010 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set.  Each year we send carefully chosen books to particular schools and libraries in various parts of the world. The books chosen seek to provide “multicultural” or “trans-cultural” stories that promote awareness of, knowledge about, and positive acceptance of “the other” in ways children can learn and enjoy. We are convinced of the crucial role of literacy and reading in an education that fosters understanding and empathy. To learn more about our Outreach program click here and to read our recent announcement of the 2012 book set click here.

0 Comments on It’s the book trailer to award winning author Grace Lin’s new novel Starry River of the Sky! as of 9/26/2012 4:17:00 PM
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22. Academy to screen 3D Digital Restoration of China’s “Uproar In Heaven”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the west coast premiere of the classic Chinese animated feature Uproar In Heaven on Wednesday October 17th. The screening is part of a city-wide China Onscreen Biennial which will include showings of rare mainland Chinese shorts and feature films at various venues including UCLA, REDCAT, and the UCLA Film and Television Archives. Now known as The Monkey King: Uproar In Heaven, this landmark feature by directors Wan Lai-Ming and Tang Cheng was originally released in two parts – the first in 1961, the second in 1965. I first saw it in New York in the 1970s (I even saved the ad from the newspaper (at left) all these years). It’s an incredible visual feast that is a must-see on the big screen – with crazy-wonderful art direction and animation (see trailer below). It’s based on the Chinese myth of the Monkey King set to a Beijing opera-orchestral soundtrack. The film has been digitally restored and converted to 3D – and will be screened in its original language with English subtitles.

The screening will be at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theatre on Vine Street in Hollywood – and it will sell-out. Tickets go on sale today. Preceding the feature will be a presentation on its digital restoration and 3D conversion by Tom Burton and Pierre Routhier of Technicolor. I highly recommend this film. For more information, check the Academy’s website.

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23. Picture Book Roundup - old favorites

Today's Picture Book Roundup features older winners of the Caldecott Medal. 

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
I recently completed a class, "The Caldecott Medal: Understanding Distinguished Art in Picture Books," offered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), and taught by K.T. Horning.

In addition to learning much that I didn't know about art, I had the opportunity to encounter or revisit some Caldecott Medal winners that predate my career as a librarian. I have been working in a library since 2005, and received my masters degree and first professional librarian position in 2007. The Caldecott Medal has been awarded since 1938. Clearly, I had a lot of catching up to do.

Though I did not read them all, I did read many older winners. Here are some of my favorites from the years prior to 1990:

(In order by publication date - award dates are the January following the publication year)

  • Langstaff, John. 1955. Frog Went A-Courtin'. New York: Harcourt Brace. Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky.

Richly detailed and expressive animals illustrate this favorite old folk song.  (If you don't know the song, Frog Went A-Courtin', Burl Ives' rendition was a classic)  This is my favorite of all the older Caldecotts.

  • Mosel, Arlene. 1972. The Funny Little Woman. New York: Dutton. Illustrated by Blair Lent.

Humorous, with inventive illustrations, the funny little woman travels to a world beneath her simple home in Japan.


  • Yorinks, Arthur. 1986. Hey. Al. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. Illustrated by Richard Egielski.

Generally disliked by most of my classmates, this quirky, surreal story about a man and his dog really grows on you.


  • Yolen, Jane. 1987. Owl Moon. New York: Philomel. Illustrated by John Schoenherr.

I have been fortunate enough to hear owls in the night many times, though the only ones I have been able to spot are the low-flying burrowing owls.  In Owl Moon, the thrill of a night-time owling expedition is captured brilliantly in both illustration and prose.

  • Young, Ed. 1989. Lon Po Po:A Red-Riding Hood Story from China.  New York: Philomel.

 
A masterpiece of danger, suspense and courage - a classic folktale. The only one of my picks written and illustrated by the same person, it's no surprise that it's a pitch-perfect pairing of text and art.

A complete list of Caldecott Medal winners 1938-present, may be found here.


I've left off many other wonderful old medal winners, I know.  Feel free to chime in with your favorite Caldecott winners from the 1930s-1980s.


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24. Mo Yan

Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for Literature!

He's my favorite author and he's had Nobel hype for years. It's so exciting that he finally won!

The first book of his that I read was Red Sorghum. It was assigned for a Chinese Literature in Translation course. I was only auditing the class and could only read part of it before I had to turn my attention elsewhere. But, I liked it so much that I went back and finished it after the semester was over.

The movie Red Sorghum dramatises the first part of the novel. The opening scenes of Happy Times are based on one of the short stories in Shifu, You'll Do Anything For a Laugh.

The Garlic Ballads is my favorite book by him.

I prefer is earlier stuff to his later stuff. The shorter works are tighter and more accessible. His later works seem like a Nobel bid, but are still very good. Overall his writing is marked by a visceral lushness that I'm not used to seeing from Chinese prose, which is usually sparse in its descriptions. Many of his works are touched by a magic realism that brings to mind Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

AND! When writing up this blog post I see that many of his works are available for FREE for Amazon Prime members through the lending library and many are priced at bargain prices to own the Kindle version. Take advantage while you can, especially of the three titles I mentioned in this post.


Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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25. NY Premiere: “The Beginning” Doc About China’s Indie Animation Scene

There’s a strong wave of indie animators emerging from Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, and China. The latter country’s indie scene is the focus of the documentary The Beginning directed by Jess Zou of NeochaEDGE. The film, which debuts in NY next week at the China Institute (125 East 65th Street, NY, NY 10065), features profiles of twenty Chinese animators and studios who are pursuing a more independent approach in their work. The 100-minute film is in Mandarin with English subtitles. Tickets are $8 and pre-registration is required on the Institute’s website.

Artists and studios featured in The Beginning include: Ray Lei (Beijing), Sun Haipeng (Shenzhen), Liu Jian (Nanjing), Mao Qichao (Magic Animation Studio, Chengdu), Pi San (Beijing), Anytime (aka: ANI7IME) Animation Studio (Zhang Chunli, Pu Junhan, Li Weikun, Su Jingxin: Guangzhou), Seen Studio (Zhang Naowen, Aspirin, Zeng Xun: Beijing), Song Siqi (Henan)/Wang Qing (Suzhou), Li Dongzhen (Beijing), and Beijing Film Academy student animation group (Sun Yiran, Wang Xingchen, Chen Xi, Zhang Yi, and Zhang Xiadian).

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