Last Kiss In Tiananmen Square – Lisa Zhang Wharton
The novel follows a young woman, Baiyun, a junior in college, trying to reconcile her upbringing while in the midst of the rising political movement in Beijing, China.
Baiyun grew up in a strange and cold household. In order to cope with her dysfunctional family, Baiyun worked as hard as she could, eventually getting herself into the prestigious Beijing University.
Baiyun joined the Pro-democracy movement to vent her frustrations. While protesting, she met the man of her dreams, Dagong, a handsome and charismatic factory technician who was orphaned at birth and lost his only relative during the Cultural Revolution. But even Dagong couldn’t fully take Baiyun away: his face reminded her of one of her mother’s lovers, both attracting her and drawing her back.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See
Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives.
In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.
After mother and daughter have gone their separate ways, Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while Haley grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie, translated by Ina Rilke
In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.
Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China – Yu Hua, translated by Allan H. Barr
Yu Hua’s narrative gifts, populist voice, and inimitable wit have made him one of the most celebrated and best-selling writers in China. These flawlessly crafted stories—unflinching in their honesty, yet balanced with humour and compassion—take us into the small towns and dirt roads that are home to the people who make China run.
In the title story, a shopkeeper confronts a child thief and punishes him without mercy. “Victory” shows a young couple shaken by the husband’s infidelity, scrambling to stake claims to the components of their shared life. “Sweltering Summer” centres on an awkward young man who shrewdly uses the perks of his government position to court two women at once. Other tales show, by turns, two poor factory workers who spoil their only son, a gang of peasants who bully the village orphan, and a spectacular fistfight outside a refinery bathhouse. With sharp language and a keen eye, Yu Hua explores the line between cruelty and warmth on which modern China is—precariously, joyfully—balanced. Taken together, these stories form a timely snapshot of a nation lit with the deep feeling and ready humour that characterise its people. Already a sensation in Asia, certain to win recognition around the world, Yu Hua, in Boy in the Twilight, showcases the peerless gifts of a writer at the top of his form.
Jade Dragon Mountain – Elsa Hart
On the mountainous border of China and Tibet in 1708, a detective must learn what a killer already knows: that empires rise and fall on the strength of the stories they tell.
Li Du was an imperial librarian. Now he is an exile. Arriving in Dayan, the last Chinese town before the Tibetan border, he is surprised to find it teeming with travelers, soldiers, and merchants. All have come for a spectacle unprecedented in this remote province: an eclipse of the sun commanded by the Emperor himself.
When a Jesuit astronomer is found murdered in the home of the local magistrate, blame is hastily placed on Tibetan bandits. But Li Du suspects this was no random killing. Everyone has secrets: the ambitious magistrate, the powerful consort, the bitter servant, the irreproachable secretary, the East India Company merchant, the nervous missionary, and the traveling storyteller who can’t keep his own story straight.
Beyond the sloping roofs and festival banners, Li Du can see the mountain pass that will take him out of China forever. He must choose whether to leave, and embrace his exile, or to stay, and investigate a murder that the town of Dayan seems all too willing to forget.
Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China – Colin Thubron
Having learned Mandarin, and travelling alone by foot, bicycle and train, Colin Thubron sets off on a 10,000-mile journey from Beijing to Tibet, starting from a tropical paradise near the Burmese border to the windswept wastes of the Gobi desert and the far end of the Great Wall. What Thubron reveals is an astonishing diversity, a land whose still unmeasured resources strain to meet an awesome demand, and an ancient people still reeling from the devastation of the Cultural Revolution.
Hour of the Rat – Lisa Brackmann
Iraq War vet Ellie McEnroe has a pretty good life in Beijing, representing the work of controversial dissident Chinese artist Zhang Jianli. Even though Zhang’s mysterious disappearance has attracted the attention of the Chinese authorities. Even though her Born-Again mother has come for a visit and shows no signs of leaving.
But things really get complicated when Ellie’s agrees to help out an old Army buddy with his search for his missing brother. Ellie finds herself entangled in a conspiracy that may or may not involve a sinister biotech company, eco-terrorists, an art-obsessed Chinese billionaire, and lots of cats—a conspiracy that will take her on a wild chase through some of China’s most beautiful and most surreal places.