The corpse reader

From Andrea Kalinowski
Author:  Antonio Garrido
Title:  The corpse reader
Just imagine, if you will, being gathered in a crowd of peasants, sickle in hand, waiting impatiently for the official to pronounce sentence. The official scans the crowd, looking for his witness, and finally spots him. The witness is indicating “Yes, this is the sickle that slew the peasant.” The official beckons forth the peasant holding the sickle and pointing to the witness, a fly, on his blade, pronounces sentence. When the peasant inquires as to how the official knew, the official points to the fly and his brethren. The fly would not sit on your blade without something to attract it and so even though you cleaned the blade, the fly knew there had been blood on the blade. Now imagine you are in China and this is really happening to you. The Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido is a novel based on an actual Chinese personage, Ci Song.  Ci Song was the father of Chinese Forensic Sciences and the official who used a fly as a witness. The beginning of the novel was a little slow but soon enough it caught me in its web. From that moment on, I could not put the book aside. Ci Song experiences many moments of pain but is always moving forward. He exemplifies strength in the face of adversity and always attempts to honor his family ties.

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Somewhere Between (DVD)

From Ellen Druda
Somewhere Between (DVD)
Filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton has created an incredibly touching documentary about adoption.  The film stars four teenage girls adopted from China who have either never known their birth families or only have very scattered memories of life before America.   Haley, Jenna, Ann, and Fang seem like typical teens, but as we get to know them we see their inner struggles with identity are both personal and universal.  Because of China’s “One Child Policy” these girls were given away to orphanages or simply left on the street, and although they have good lives now, they still carry hurt and confusion and a strong sense of something missing.  Haley and Fang get to travel back to China and find a way to connect.  Ann begins to question her complacency, and Jenna tries to come to grips with her feelings of abandonment.  All the girls are articulate and intelligent, and as they open their hearts, it’s impossible not to feel moved as they question deeply who they are. This is a fantastic film about gender and race in America vs. China and how adoptees feel “somewhere between” their birth families and their new lives.

Spring Pearl : the last flower

From Donna Barnes
author: Yep, Laurence
Spring Pearl : the last flower 
Looking for a book with an adventurous heroine? Spring Pearl by Laurence Yep is a book from the Girls of Many Land series that offers readers a suspenseful and eye opening adventure to the world of Canton, China during the 1857 Opium War. 

Spring Pearl is 12 years old when her parents die, leaving her in the care of a wealthy family.  Because of her independent nature and her intelligence, Spring Pearl initially intimidates her host family.  However, it is her intelligence and quick wit that saves her host family when the Opium War erupts.  Because Spring Pearl grew up in the Rats’ Nest-a very poor section of Canton- she is able to navigate between both the poor and the wealthy sections of Canton with ease. The book delivers a taste of what life was like for young girls growing up in China in the 19th century.  The author provides historical notes and many photos, as well as a “Then and Now” afterword that draws on Yep’s story to contrast conditions facing girls in 19th century China with those today.

Shanghai Girls

From Margie Hartough
author: See, Lisa
Shanghai girls
This is a tale of two Chinese sisters, Pearl and May.  In 1937, Shanghai, they are having the time of their lives as “beautiful girls” posing for painters.  Their world changes when their father informs them he has sold them into arranged marriages with two American sons to pay his gambling debts.  They help each other as they struggle to become Americans and keep their Chinese heritage.  It is a testament of the love of sisters: who share hopes, dreams, and a life changing secret.

Golden Reads review

From Lynne Demestichas:

The Vagrants, by Yiyun Li

This story had an interesting premise but failed to keep my interest. I found myself putting the book down, replacing it with others I had taken out.It took place during a time in China when there was a lot of unrest, and Communism was the center of most people’s lives. Except for the one woman who was made an example of for her contradictory beliefs, there were some other characters who seemed to have long elaborate stories that were unimportant to the story.Maybe I just didn’t get it. I got lost so many times while trying to find the main point of this whole story about Communism and it’s adverse effects on this small community in rural China.Nicely written, but boring.

Red Azalea

by Anchee Min

Red Azalea is a simply written, yet powerful memoir by author Anchee Min. It’s the coming of age story of a young girl, set in the 1960s and 70s, during China’s Cultural Revolution. Min poetically describes life under Mao’s rule, where all decisions were made for her; where she lived, what kind of work she did, and even who she could love. Because of the lack of control she had over her life, Min struggled for both her emotional and physical survival.

reviewer: Carol Leifer