I started to do the challenge in August 2008, and then failed to post reviews to this community. Following oyceter
's example, I'm just going to briefly post about the books I've read in the first six months of this challenge (with links to bigger reviews if I posted them in my own journal), in the hopes that I will not be overwhelmed by my backlog and therefore post nothing for another six months.
I elected to do a modified 50 books poc challenge - for the twelve months IBARW 2008 to IBARW 2009 I am reading books by Malaysian authors, or ethnically Chinese authors, because although this is my personal experience I very rarely have read them. The plan is for me to have a new challenge every twelve months.
1. Miss Chopsticks - Xue Xinran
The problems with the rural to urban migration in China weaves through everything in this novel, an exploration of the prejudice against the floating population and the impact of the hukou
and the way this impacts women in particular. I am a big fan of Xinran's books, she always reveals a very hidden part of China and especially focuses on women. more here
2. The Woman Warrior - Maxine Hong Kingston
I'd never read any of Kingston's work before, so this was an interesting, at times confusing, but still good introduction.
3. Lust, Caution - Eileen Chang
Collection of short stories, really awesome stories about women and adventure and China.
4. Empress Orchid - Anchee Min
So it turns out I am not really a big fan of Anchee Min's writing. I found Empress Orchid a novel filled with unsympathetic characters and I raced through just trying to get it over with.
5. Evening is the Whole Day - Preeta Samarasan
This is lyrical and beautiful and engaging, and you're so unsuspecting, one minute it's depressing family politics and the next minute BAM you're in the middle of the 1969 Malaysian race riots. A++ recommend. more here
6. Sweet Mandarin - Helen Tse
Autobiographical exploration of the Chinese diaspora, more of a family history than anything else. more here
7. The Canonisation of Deities (vol 1-3) - unknown
This is quite graphic, more the words than anything else. The version I read was in Chinese and English, and sometimes I had to pause in reading the English to check out the Chinese because it was so gruesome that I thought there had to be a mistranslation. My mum assures me the ones she read were just as graphic when she was a child. Educational but gruesome.
8. The Gift of Rain - Tan Twan Eng
The horror of reading about WWII and the Japanese in Penang is made the worse by being from Penang. The beautiful, evocative descriptions are compelling on their own, you can close your eyes and see them but when I closed my eyes I could see them, and knowing what happened to my beloved island meant I took a very long time to read this.
9. Growing Up Asian in Australia - Alice Pung (ed)
Identity and nationalism and culture and this was fantastic, a collection of short stories, and some of the stories were just like mine! Which was exciting. This is not all Chinese so sort of doesn't fit, it features other stories as well. A++ more here
10. Tale of Two Cities - Qiu Xiaolong
A book in the Inspector Chen murder mystery series. This one was the same as always, some murdered woman and the man who did her in, and Inspector Chen caught up in the politicking of early 1990s Shanghai.
11. Mao's Last Dancer - Li Cunxin
Autobiography of a student running away to the USA.
12. Zhu, Wen - I Love Dollars and other stories of China
This very cynical look at humanity in general, and Chinese society, was very bleak and pessimistic. At times there were strains of something worthy in humanity, and was a very effective way to discuss the identity issues in China in the late 1980s-early 1990s. more here
13. Guo, Xiaolu - A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
The story of a young Chinese woman who has travelled to the UK to learn English, and the ways in which she grows, and what it reveals about us as individuals and collective (and the ways in which we refuse to change). more here
14. Lee, Jennifer 8. - The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
An exploration of the paths of Chinese food, the way it has adapted and the way it has had to adapted. Also a great exploration of social justice, race issues, business, identity and the immigrant experience. more here
15. Dai, Sijie - Mr Muo's Traveling Couch
Mr Muo is China's first psychoanalyst, and this is his road tripping adventure filled with misfortunes and an unsure ending. It was an uncomfortable read, mostly because it was so confronting about fetishes and and really terrible attitudes to women.