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Return to the Middle Kingdom: One Family,…

Return to the Middle Kingdom: One Family, Three Revolutionaries, and the… (2008)

by Yuan-tsung Chen

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Sometimes I feel bad giving a bad review for a book. This is one of those times, because Yuan-tsung Chen obviously poured her heart into writing the book. But, in her own words, "sometimes the things I composed in my mind were very lively; but as soon as I transferred them onto paper, they sounded dull and even not quite intelligible." The author can’t quite decide whether she wants the book to be a history or a biography, jumping between broader issues of the Chinese past and more intimate details of individual people, usually with a transition that left me wondering which was which. It lacks organization. And more than once Chen wrote different facts that logically cannot be reconciled.

(Full review at my blog) ( )
  KingRat | Sep 9, 2008 |
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To my son Jay Acham and his family with love
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In the spirit of the classic Wild Swans comes this epic tale spanning three generations and three separate revolutions. Mixing biography and history into a single ambitious story, Yuan-Tsung Chen views China ?s rebirth in modern times from the perspective of her late husband ?s family. Ah Chen, a landless peasant, fought in the Taiping Rebellion against the Manchu court in 1850-64. But when Western powers helped crush the uprising, Chen was forced to flee to Trinidad as an indentured servant. Decades later, his son Eugene rose from poverty to become Trinidad ?s first Chinese lawyer before moving to London, where he met Sun Yat-sen and became his close aide. Inspired by Sun, Eugene returned to China and led the 1911 revolution that overthrew its last dynasty. Finally, Eugene ?s son Jack ?the author ?s late husband ?used his artistic and journalistic talents to illustrate and explain the Chinese Marxist Revolution to the outside world. When Jack (whose first language was not Chinese) was seized by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, his wife Yuan-tsung was forced to serve as his translator during interrogations. Ordered to write a confession ? ?Go back three generations to see what crimes your family has committed against the revolution! ? ?Jack and Yuan-tsung began to piece together the family ?s dramatic history. This remarkable story, spanning a turbulent century and a half, is the compelling result.… (more)

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