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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Books, Books, Books

This post is part of a Q&A series. Check it out here.

K and/or K asked "What are your top three favorite books about China? (They don't have to be adoption related.)"

I am so, so glad someone asked me about books! I love to read - we have a large library of books about China and/or adoption, for both adult and child readers. I love to share my favorites, but I'm always hesitant to do so, since I'm just one person. What I dislike, someone else may love and vice versa. But since you asked...

One of my absolute favorite books about China is Wild Swans:Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. This real life saga follows a Chinese family over three generations, from the turn of the twentieth century, when the author's grandmother lived as a warlord's concubine, through the middle of the century, when the author's mother rose through the ranks of the Communist Party, to the Cultural Revolution, when the author herself lived through the chaos and upheaval of Mao's rule. This book provides an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world. LA Times book critic Edward Behr said about Wild Swans, "There has never been a book like this." It won two British awards, including the 1992 NCR Book Award and the 1994 British Book of the Year.

I also highly recommend River Town, written by Peter Hessler, about his experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer living in the remote town of Fuling within Sichuan Province in the late 1990s. You may recognize his name as the author of the recent best-seller Oracle Bones. This memoir follows Hessler and fellow volunteer Adam Meier as they navigate life in Fuling as the first westerners to be in that part of China for over 50 years. Perry Link, a Professor of Chinese at Princeton University, said, "There are very few books about the daily like, feelings and attitudes of ordinary Chinese people. Chinese writers see no need for such books and Westerners are largely unable to write them because they don't know enough ... I know of no book in English that gets the reader 'into China' of the last few decades than Peter Hessler's River Town."

The third book I recommend is actually Iris Chang's The Chinese in America. While I do feel it's extremely important to learn about China, its history and culture, I find it even more important for American adoptive parents to learn about the history and culture of Chinese-Americans. After all, our children will be members of the Chinese-American community. Chang created a engaging, fast-paced and engrossing read that spans 150 years - a rare find among typically dry history books. I found myself amazed at Chang's ability to connect broad sweeps of history, both domestic and abroad, to individual vignettes. She chronicles the many accomplishments of Chinese immigrants and their descendants in America: building the infrastructure of the country, contributing to major scientific and technological advances, expanding the American world of literature, all the while fighting racism and exclusionary laws.

So... what books do y'all recommend?

28 comments:

Aunt LoLo said...

Ummm....Yum Yum Dim Sum, by amy wilson sanger

We're all about the food over here and the length s perfect for our schedule and attention span - 12 pages. (BBJ has read it so many times, she's started tp memorize it! 'Daddy....a dim sum...a cart!')

I also really like My Pet Dragon, by Paul Niemann. It's a sweet story and incorporates hinese characters into the illustrations, teaching young readers about 20 characters in a very memorable way!

Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) said...

Wild Swans is indeed an excellent book, even for people not interested in China. Another China book that is educational, well-writted, and just downright funny is "Red China Blues." Excellent!

I love books too. This was a great question.

Sharie said...

We love books too! I just wish I had more time to read!

OH MY #6 said...

I love books. I buy books. I have beautiful, lovely, piles of books waiting to read. I am terrible. The Chinese in America looks very interesting.

Lea
xo

mommy24treasures said...

I always love it when you post anything related to reading, thanks!

K and/or K said...

Thanks so much for answering my question! I look forward to reading your recommendations.

Stefanie said...

My favorite adoption book is Parenting the Hurt Child. Totally changed how I viewed parenting an adopted child.
I also loved Wild Swans. Bonesetters Daughter was very good, too. I re-read The Good Earth again, a great book whether you are adopting or not.

McEwens said...

Those look like great books! I will have to go check them out!

prechrswife said...

I LOVED Wild Swans. I need to check out the other two. I'll have to think on favorites. I really got some good info from the anthology put out by FCC a few years back, but I'll have to look up the name. I thought Lost Daughters of China was excellent, too.

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

I have not read any of these books....thanks for the recommendation!! I don't find much time to read, but when I do, these will definitely be on the list!!

Glad to be back....missed checking in on the Tonggu Family:)

Lisa

mama d said...

Great list, TM. Thank you. Peter Hessler frequently has pieces in The New Yorker. They invariably entertain and educate.

Misty said...

have you read anything by Maxine Hong Kingston? She's a little heady in her fiction, but I think she presents very interesting conflicts that Chinese Americans (like herself) go through. I particularly loved The Woman Warrior, which is written as part fantasy (like chinese mysticism, not unicorns) and part history/saga. I'm not sure if that's clear, but I loved it!

Misty said...

p.s my monk came out in me... it's been driving me crazy that you have had 99 followers for a while... i had to follow you (you've been in my google reader for ages, and of course on my sidebar so i read you daily even tho i wasn't technically "following" you!) so there... 100 followers. nice and even.

sara said...

Ooh, I love book recommendations!! I read The Good Earth & enjoyed it. I'd like to read mored - sadly I am a "buyer" more than a "reader". I will actually start most books I buy, but finishing them is another story!!

p.s. I loved your meeting the hubs story. It is very sweet and it is so refreshing that you can talk openly about it!! I think that it is a beautiful story to tell the teenagers ;=)

sara said...

Ok, sorry Misty - but I have a "thing" against even numbers - I had to bump the followers up to 101.

Ok, I made that up. But I thought following would be fun anyways :=)

Patricia/NYC said...

I'm an avid reader & I couldn't agree more about Wild Swans....a fabulous book!

I also recommend, "The Good Women of China" (non-fiction by Xinran) & Travelers Tales China (non-fiction, travel compilation)...I actually read that one right before we traveled to China & thoroughly enjoyed it.

Debbie said...

I have read quite a bit of fiction set in China. But I haven't read these books. I'll look into them.

Heather of the EO said...

Did you know that K and/or K are my real-life friends? Just sayin' They rock.

And so do your book suggestions.

Ivy said...

HI TM,
I LOVE your collection of books and will add them to my list. I just need to know when do you find time to read? Unless it's ELMO or the ABC book, I can't seem to get to my novels sitting here, beckoning me to pick them up!
Thanks for sharing. I've got to come by here more often. Your blog alone is a slice of life:))

Hugs,

Ivy

CC said...

Even before I met my husband I always LOVED reading Chinese history books. Probably started with the Joy Luck Club. Really, now I know it was God preparing me for my future spouse and children! ;) I loved Wild Swans, but read it so long ago that I can't remember anything about it. I've never heard of Iris Chang, so I'll have to check that one out!

Michelle said...

Great book tips, TM. Now, if only I could get to the stack on my nightstand!!

Thanks for sharing your favorites!

discombobulated said...

My uncle who recently died always said "you're never alone if you have a book".

Gail said...

Wild Swans was the very first book I read when getting ready to adopt Grace, that was almost 8 years ago. Since then I've re-read it and loved it even more. Also enjoyed The Chinese in America. The late Iris Chang is an amazing author. I also like the Good Earth, and Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah. We love books in our house too. :)

Jennifer said...

Will have to check out this list. Between reading blogs and facebook, I haven't had time to read. I need to get off the computer and sit down with a good book.

Jen

Janet said...

I loved "River Town". Excellent. :-)

redmaryjanes said...

I read Wild Swans and loved it!

Elizabeth Channel said...

I loved Wild Swans too!

Jennifer said...

I just added Wild Swans to my library list... they should mail it to me soon! Thanks for the recommendation.