China Memoirs Get Personal

Susan Blumberg-Kason reviews The Road to Sleeping Dragon

A decade ago, China memoirs hit the publishing world in the US with a force that hasn’t let up. The storm is powered in part by Peace Corps alumni: Mike Levy (Kosher Chinese); four-time China memoirist and New Yorker writer Peter Hessler; and Michael Meyer, whose third China memoir, The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up, was released late last year. I enjoyed Meyer’s The Last Days of Old Beijing when it came out in 2010. And I poured through In Manchuria in a couple of sittings a few years ago. They all took a serious tone and seemed determined to inform a reader who hadn’t ventured to China.

Apart from John Pomfret in his memoir, Chinese Lessons, about a time just after the US and China normalized relations, most American men-in-China memoirists haven’t delved much into their personal lives. And most have been single when they arrived in China. Women memoirists have been more open with their personal stories, like Rachel DeWoskin in Foreign Babes in Beijing and Susan Conley in The Foremost Good Fortune. Fuchsia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper is a food memoir, but she goes into detail about feeling lonely and isolated at her school.


Sounding the Alarm in Hong Kong

Susan Blumberg-Kason reviews Candace Chong’s play Wild Boar

The Hong Kong playwright Candace Chong Mui-Ngam worked with David Henry Hwang to translate Hwang’s award-winning play Chinglish, which premiered in Chicago in 2011. Chinglish, a story of cross-cultural American-Chinese relations in a business and personal context, went on to take Broadway by storm. Chong herself is one of Hong Kong’s most renowned playwrights and recently collaborated again with Hwang – for another Chicago premier – but this time on a play Chong wrote. Wild Boar debuted in Cantonese in Hong Kong back in 2012 and has recently been performed in English by Chicago’s Silk Road Rising theater company, with Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith translating the play into English and Hwang adapting it for an American audience.