Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cultural Revolution Survivor Qi @ Bookworm, Sat.5-26-07

Shouhua Qi, author of Red Guard Fantasies and Other Stories,
will sign copies of his new book Sat., May, 26 from 12 NOON - 1 p.m.

At The Bookworm,
968 Farmington Ave.,
West Hartford [phone, 860 233-2653].

Qi's American friends call him "Chi."

Red Guard Fantasies and Other Stories is dedicated to Qi's father, who was a middle school principal during the Cultural Revolution. Like many other so-called elites, Qi's father suffered intense physical degradation. He was forced to kneel on broken glass with a wooden chalkboard hung around his neck while being denounced by angry mobs. The volume has 14 stories about Chinese society transforming after the Cultural Revolution, including the signature Red Guard Fantasies.

Here's a little bit more about Chi, one of the stories from his new collection, Red Guard Fantasies and Other Stories and his novel about Nanjing, When The Purple Mountain Burns.

More organized than the NYPD during the Serpico era were the "public security" officers who evolved from mainland China's Cultural Revolution.

Fresh off the success of his acclaimed debut novel, When The Purple Mountain Burns, Shouhua Qi delivers the compelling tale of a hairdresser from the masses brutalized and extorted by the people's cops in his new collection of short stories, Red Guard Fantasies and Other Stories, Long River Press, ISBN 978-1-59265-068-2.

Qi, a native of Nanjing and professor of English at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, will also appear at Book Expo America June 1-3 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.

The story of Fangmei's broken dream, The Evidence, was inspired by two real-life stories reported in the Chinese media.

Cheapskate public security officers return to Fangmei's shop, a small brick and concrete space with a hand-painted wooden sign. These are not paying customers. Long, wet hairs stick out of one's nose, and he has bad breath.

"We're not here for haircuts," the other officer says.

Nose Hair follows up, "You're under arrest."

"What did I do?" Fangmei asks.

"You'll find out. Now come with us," Nose Hair responds.

This exchange, and Fangmei's subsequent ordeal in captivity, struck me as part of a parallel universe inhabited by Easy Rawlins, the working man private eye hero in the series by Walter Mosley. Rawlins, a black man living in the Los Angeles of the 50's and 60's, occasionally is detained and beaten by cops who can get away with it. Like Fangmei, he's just trying to survive.

The Man in China and The Man in L.A. have a certain kinship.

As she is driven to jail in a police van, Famgmei catches a glimpse of a huge scarlet banner on top of a tall building under construction "grandly proclaiming something about transforming [her town] into a first rate twenty-first-century city." One might see similar signs on the way to jail in Hartford or New Haven.

Among the signs in the Chinese interrogation room: "Leniency to Those Who Confess and Cooperate" and "Harshness to Those Who Choose to Resist."

Fangmei is not what we might call a wild, modern woman. Her big thrills include watching romantic schlock TV shows and sometimes walking around her apartment and thrusting her hips, trying to imitate footage of a model. Still, the Chinese cops find her little shop a convenient target for surveillance and, ultimately, a source of revenue.

Qi - or "Chi" as some American friends call him - is working on a second novel about American POWs during the Korean conflict who decide to live in China. He has taught at WestConn for nearly seven years. His wife, Xiaohong, works at the University of Connecticut Medical Center and his son, Frank, a Cornell graduate, plans to attend law school.

He continues to be sought out for signings of When The Purple Mountain Burns, a fictional account of the massacre of 300,000 civilians during the Japanese invasion of his hometown, Nanjing, in the winter of 1937-38. Nanjing is surrounded by mountains and the best known is the Purple Mountain. When the Purple Mountain burns, a saying goes, the city falls.

"Like no other work before, Shouhua Qi's unique voice profoundly captures the essence of his hometown during wartime China and the struggles faced by generations of Chinese as they attempt to exorcise the demons of popular memory," the University of California at Los Angeles Asia Institute said in announcing a reading by Qi at a local bookstore.

Many Chinese tried to escape by jumping into the Yangtze River, which filled with corpses and turned red with blood as Japanese gunboats rammed the bodies. The Purple Mountain, meanwhile, was ablaze with bombs.

"During those days and nights [writing the Purple Mountain] I was living in a different world, and reliving the tragedy with the characters I was creating," Qi told The Danbury News Times, "often … having tears in my eyes as I typed away."

1 comment:

All Blog Spots said...

nice blog