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Meet an Author: Xinran, “mother and moral crusader”

Mar 04, 2009 Xinran is a Chinese author. Her book is The Good women of China. FYI she has one painted fingernail .. not sure of significance ..if any. Toronto Star/Michael Stuparyk

Xue Xinran, who writes under the pen name Xinran, found fame in China between 1989 and 1997 as host of the popular call-in radio program “Words on the Night Breeze.” She has since written several books that has won her an international following. Her first book, The Good Women of China, was an international bestseller upon publication in 2002. She followed up with Sky Burial, a true account of a Han woman’s journey and experiences in Tibet. Her latest book, reviewed below by Laurie O’Donnell, is Buy Me the Sky: The Remarkable Truth of China’s One-Child Generations.

Books available at The Bookworm:

The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices (2003)
Sky Burial (2005)
China Witness (2010)
Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Love and Loss
Buy Me the Sky: The Remarkable Truth of China’s One-Child Generations (2015)

Events in Beijing:

March 19, 10 am @The Bookworm: Buy Me the Sky: The Remarkable Truth of China’s One-Child Generations, moderated by Laurie O’Donnell

March 19, 7 pm @Dulwich: In Conversation with Xinran, moderated by Joe Mckee

March 20, 10 am @The Bookworm: Minority Matters: Focus on Ethnicity in Chinese Culture, with Li Dan and Sonthar Gyal, moderated by Jocelyn Ford

Buy Me the Sky review by Laurie O’Donnell

Buy Me the Sky 2

In 1978 China implemented the one-child policy, creating a generation of “one and onlies.” In Buy Me the Sky, Xinran forces us to look at this issue from the perspective of those born in this era, those living with the consequences of this policy.

Each chapter concentrates on the life of one person. We are introduced to their backgrounds, and each story has a context. We meet a man who arrives in London to study, with full blessing of family, but is so unprepared he cannot even unpack his own suitcase. There is another, more disturbing story, of a boy whose family has murdered its unwanted baby girls.

Xinran, who has made her reputation humanizing family issues in a country undergoing massive political, economic, and social changes, has a point of view: she has been described as a “mother and moral crusader.” Yet she tells other people’s stories with humility, generosity, and grace. She listens to her subjects and respects their stories.

Xinran ends every chapter asking her subjects for their thoughts on Yao Jiaxin, a 21-year-old only-child who stabbed a woman to death after hitting her with his car, so as to avoid responsibility – a case that many in China said represented the ills of this generation. The wide range of answers to this question is both insightful and disturbing. This is not a book driven by an agenda but by empathy and humanity.

Sky Burial review by Laurie O’Donnell

sky burial

Sky Burial is the compelling story of a Chinese woman, Wen Shu, who left her home and spent thirty years in Tibet searching for her husband. It is a window into the soul of this woman: her love, her loyalty, her humility.

Wen is a traditional Chinese woman who accepts Tibetan customs to survive. She is taken in by a Tibetan family who lives on the grasslands and accepts her into their society. Through Wen, we feel the incredible contrast between China and the traditions and customs of Tibet.

The title is pivotal to the story, as it underscores the contrast of cultures. It’s a funeral practice in the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition that sees a person’s body, after his or her death, offered to the birds.

Although the book is set during the People’s Liberation Army’s encroachment into Tibet, the story is not political. It is personal. It is about acceptance and the malleability of this Chinese woman who survives. It is painful and beautiful. She is all around us in China, the surviving spirit. The price that is paid. Look around: she is beside you.

Xinran is an author participating at the 2016 Bookworm Literary Festival. To read about other participating authors, please see our Meet an Author series.

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