Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Guest-blogger Amy Kwei, author of A Concubine for the Family, on 5 Recommended Books on China

Guest-blogging today is my fellow Women's National Book Association member, novelist Amy Kwei, author of the just-released A Concubine for the Family, which is based on an amazing true story of her own family. Here's what she has to say about it:

Imagine a wife lovingly gives a younger woman to her husband as a birthday present! A Concubine for the Family is a fictionalized account based upon this “true-life” event of my Chinese Grandmother's gift to ensure a male heir for the family. This is a story of feminine solidarity and heroism. 
The main characters belong to the Confucian elite and share the same family dominated values as many present-day leaders of Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Simply written, the novel is divided into three “books”, and follows the fortunes of the “book-fragrant” Huang family from Hangzhou, China to Shanghai and Hong Kong in 1937 — 1941, when China was emerging into Westernization, the Sino-Japanese war and WWII.
The daily life and society of this household are steeped in the traditions of decency, nobility, loyalty and cunning maneuvers for survival. They give the reader an instant understanding of Chinese culture and how they differ from our own. Poetry, silk cultivation, foot-binding, acupuncture and opium addiction are intertwining threads throughout the book. The daughters bring comic relief. Two Americans, a children’s tutor and a visiting reporter, introduce conflicting Western values. 
The novel’s second “book” highlights episodes of great glamour, shrewd business and political intrigue occurring in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. Book Three details the Huang family living in Hong Kong, under British colonialism. The novel holds promise to become a Chinese Downton Abbey. 

Want to learn more about China? Amy Kwei has recently read and warmly recommends:

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolo Guo.  A quick read and an edgy story of how the Chinese and Westerner differ in the concept of love. 
Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Live, Love and Language by Deborah Fallows. Humorous insights into the Chinese language.
China Airborn by James Fallows. Gives a good understanding of how China is investing a huge sum to jump-start its aerospace industry.  
Mother on Fire, by Sandra Tsing Loh. A fast, fun story that will irritate her parent. 
Busy working on the sequel to A Concubine for the Family — Under the Red Moon. Research readings include The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang.

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Amy found out my blog after reading my note in the WNBA newsletter about my dad's book, Captured: The Forgotten Men of Guam, by Roger Mansell-- which does have quite a bit to do with China and she was kind enough to recommend it, also. 

Speaking of Iris Chang, my #1 book read in 2010 was Finding Iris Chang, a memoir by her close friend and fellow journalist / writer, Paula Kamen.

Interested in guest-blogging for "Madam Mayo" blog? Guidelines here. Archive of all previous guest-blog posts here.