Monday, June 16, 2008

What We've Been Reading

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

I was in high school when the movie came out. Never particularly interested in history, I flagged this one as boring and never thought twice. Fifteen years later, the book crossed my table and only because I am living in China did I pick it up. But am I glad I did. Amy Tan is a beautiful story teller and I read the book in a few lightning days of reading every chance I got.

Doing a quick bit of internet search for this post, I learned that Cliff Notes has made a guide to the book, as have many others - including the author herself. It comes as no surprise to me that Amy Tan is one of modern literature's heavy weights. But although I'm a sucker for a talented writer, I read purely for the story and the characters. Tan builds a few strong characters throughout the book, but in a unique style. Telling each individuals' story, and interweaving them chapter and chapter, she builds strong characters throughout the entire book while presenting a series of short stories. And having only this year learned of China's appalling recent history, these stories of normal Chinese-American women overcoming horrible circumstances are immensely interesting. An added bonus is reading an intimate story in China written from an American's perspective - no doubt, this combination made the book that much quicker of a read. I highly recommend this book, whether for its presentation of Chinese recent history, or just for a fantastic read.

National Geographic, May 2008

May's issue of National Geographic focused on China, and highlighted some of the best authors I've read recently. Peter Hessler began and finished the the magazine, with a piece by Amy Tan and plenty of recognizable local photographers.

Too often, current international magazine articles only tell surface information. Too often, I could have written the stories myself. And way too often, I could have corrected the stories as well. But National Geographic delved into architecture, the environment and small town China in both deeply and well. It reads easily and, if you can still find it, is worth a purchase to bring yourself up to date on China in 2008.

1 comment:

Liz said...

I've never read this one, though all three of my girls have, in Honors English. They've had varying reactions, from loathing to liking.

I've recently enjoyed a great read on China and its history, "Return to Middle Kingdom." For anyone interesting in the intricacies of politics, Chinese style, this book is indespensible.