Our local public library brings in a nationally recognized author
with something interesting to say, some relevance with current issues,
and who is on the speaking circuit. This year, it was Nicole Mones, who
I had never heard of, but since her fiction is about modern China, I
decided it was worth reading, in anticipation of attending her free and open to the public talk.
attended a party sometime ago where I spoke at length with the director
of the library about the author series which I love. But, I said, you really
need to bring in a woman next time. So far, all the speakers had been
men. So this was another reason I needed to attend. To support the
library who did just what I asked them to do.
Ms Mones has three published works of fiction so far and I chose to read this book, her third, The Last Chinese Chef. The book
itself was not a favorite by any means. Fiction feels very contrived to
me lately, and this book felt a little stilted in its writing and its
story. I liked it. It was interesting. But I did not love it. Mones'
research and attention to the history of China, in this case, Chinese food and restaurant culture, is evident, and for that
reason, I stuck with the book. I did look forward to hearing her
talk. Her other two books are about the porcelain industry and about archeology.
The talk was lovely. Nicole Mones is a very gifted story teller and speaker and has dedicated her writing life to telling little known stories about China and especially life during the cultural revolution. The bulk of her talk was about her new book, out in March, about Shanghai in the 1930's which became a sort of haven for African American performers who enjoyed money, success and fair treatment when they were invited from Harlem to start a big band type movement. She also talked very eloquently about a little known movement in Jewish history, that of the immigration of 25,000 Jews from Austria and Poland to Shanghai during the reign of Hitler. Her stories came with pictures and small movies of the era and overall it was a really smashing evening. I am now a huge fan. Bought one of her other books and will make sure to get a copy of this book when it comes out.
As a final coda to the evening, my husband and I were invited to a soiree afterward with the writer and I asked her about China's one child policy and if she had any interest in writing something about that cultural phenomena. She responded that she would need an American tie-in to make it work for her and she did not have a ready one. I wanted to ask her more about writing, but she was too in demand. I had to move along. What a great evening. Support this writer--buy her books!