A loyal reader wrote me after I announced my Chinese-American series to tell me about a book she read with her book group: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo. Technically this work is not a Chinese-American authored novel but rather a novel written by a native Chinese woman who had written several novels first in Chinese. Dictionary was her first all English novel and it is set in England where the Chinese narrator/main character goes to live for a year to learn English. Z (her name is too hard to pronounce so she tells the English to call her Z) meets a man and falls in love and narrates her way through her year in London by calling attention to words and meaning and how they teach her the differences between Western culture and Chinese Culture. This year of learning language and culture for Z is also a love story and a year of learning about what it means to love a man.
Z educates herself about place and home and love and family and most of all self, by using her dictionary to help her put each word and each meaning fully in the context of her changing self-perception.
I really fell for Z and I cared about what happened to her. Her affection for her lover was tangible (even if I did not see what she saw in him.) and her growing mastery of the language and her understanding of east meets west was fascinating as it unfolded to the reader. She metamorphosed into a citizen of the world through her journal of words.
As a love story it was sweet and sad and compelling. The end is not surprising but yet, you keep turning pages wondering how Z will resolve the major tension of the novel and end her love affair with the odd bi-sexual, vegetarian artist. Or does she? More interesting though is her own growth and development. She has become the star of her own life.
I would like to mail this work to my friend back in China. I found the exploration of language from a Chinese native's perspective to be utterly fascinating. I think my friend would love it. It would make her laugh. But I am starting to wonder about censorship in China, and I am a bit convinced that anything I send will not get through especially if it is written by Chinese. This book also has several explicit scenes depicting sex and masturbation, and I worry the Chinese government would confiscate it for these reasons.
I have been searching for a list of banned books in China...hoping that I could have some definitive answers. I found a list of books by an American ex-pat who knows a bit about books and China. Here are at least some books, I should not try to send.
So readers, if you know this book. Should I send it over to China? Will it reach it's destination? Or will I get her put on some list by sending contraband?
Thanks for the recommendation Ann! Keep em coming.
Women in Tea: Shiuwen Tai
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