by Ha Jin

Ha Jin, a Chinese-American, won the National Book Award for Waiting. The story begins in 1963 and follows a doctor, Lin Kong, who wishes to divorce his wife and marry a nurse whom he met while working in the city. He is placed between two cultures, the arranged marriage and the new China with new norms. Ha Jin has a gift for bringing the nuances of Chinese society to life for Westerners. Any of his books are well worth reading.


"Ha Jin's novel could hardly be less theatrical, yet we're immediately engaged by its narrative structure, by its wry humor and by the subtle, startling shifts it produces in our understanding of characters and their situation." – The New York Times Review of Books

"A simple love story that transcends cultural barriers ... from the idyllic countryside to the small towns in northeast China, Jin's depictions are filled with an earthy poetic grace. ...xJin's account of daily life in China is convincing and rich in detail." – The Chicago Tribune

"Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. Together they had appeared at the courthouse in Wujia Town many times, but she had always changed her mind at the last moment when the judge asked if she would accept a divorce. Year after year, they went to Wujia Town and came back with the same marriage license issued to them by the county's registry office twenty years before." – Waiting, Vintage, 1999 edition.

Women of the Silk
by Gail Tsukiyama

Women of the Silk takes place in China in the early 20th century. The difficult and repetitive working life of Chinese women in the countryside is well documented in this finely written novel. The village life, and the hard work in the silk factory ring true. This book helps us imagine the difficulties and vivid joys of the rural Chinese and to understand the China of today with its amazing growth and the migration of its peoples to the cities.


"Enlivened with an engrossing richness of detail, Women of the Silk provides a revealing look at the life and customs of China ... succinct and delicate." – The New York Times Book Review

"Evocative ... warm-hearted." – Washington Post Book World

"Pao wrinkled his brow and sighed. A decision must be made. There was nothing he could do but wait for the harvest to improve again, even if it meant the sacrifice of one of his daughters. He could at least count himself lucky that daughters were of some use. The fortuneteller had as much as predicted that Pei was of a non-marrying fate. Then what would she do. An unmarried woman had little in this world without a husband and his family to care for her. ...xHe gave one last look towards the shadows and made his decision. Pei would be sent to the silk village." – Women of the Silk, St. Martin's, 1993 edition.

Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present
by Peter Hessler

The reader will learn a great deal about both modern and ancient China from this well-researched book by a New Yorker journalist. Peter Hessler, long familiar with China, writes a marvelous book that allows us a glimpse into the changing world of modern China. Hessler moves easily between the past and the present and has deeply researched the history and fables of this fascinating country. He manages to get close to the real China such as Falun Gong demonstrations, and anti-American protests in Nanjing. He weaves history into the mix by framing the chapters with short pieces on Chinese artifacts.


"This book demands patience but rewards it well. The society that emerges from its pages is one buffeted by conflicting currents, confident and yet deeply insecure, and haunted by its recent past." – David Bosco, The San Francisco Chronicle

"In Anyang, at an archaeological site called Huanbei, a small group of men work in a field, mapping an underground city. The city dates to the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries, when the Shang culture was probably approaching its peak. Nowadays, the Shang ruins lie far beneath the soil, usually at a depth of five to eight feet. Peasants have planted crops for centuries without realizing that an entire city waited beneath them." – Oracle Bones, Harper Perennial, 2007 edition.


The Crippled Tree
by Han Suyin

This is the first volume of Han Suyin's autobiography and covers the years from 1885 until 1928. Although it is a detailed description of the history of China during this time, it reads as flowingly as fiction. We follow Suyin and her family, her mother who is Belgian and her father, Chinese, through all the tumultuous events of the times. If you enjoy (and you will) this first volume, I recommend the other volumes of the autobiography. These books are compelling and difficult to put down. A fine way to immerse yourself in Chinese history.


"This is a most valuable and informative book. During the first of many hours that I spent reading it, I learned more about China than I did in a whole year spent in that country." – Bertrand Russell, The Observer

"Passionate history." – Daily Telegraph

"A man's life begins with his ancestors and is continued in his descendants. My father's life, and after my father my own life, begins with the Family. To describe the Family I must go back into time past and tell how the progenitors came to the land where they settled. For they were Hakkas, the Guest People, wanderers within the continent that is China." – The Crippled Tree, Academy Chicago Publishers, 1985 edition.