Title: The Vagrants
Author: Yiyun Li
Publisher: Random House, February 2009
Summary: The Vagrants takes place in the town of Muddy River in China during the late 1970s. The focus of the story is the execution of Gu Shan as a counterrevolutionary and the effect that her death has on various members of her community. Some of these residents were victims of Gu Shan during her days as a Red Guard and are excited about the upcoming denunciation ceremony and her execution. Others realize this is another injustice. The reader is introduced to several characters but what they have most in common is the oppression they suffer at the hands of their communist government. This is a tragic story but well worth reading.
Who will like this book? Readers who like historical fiction.
Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator
Title: American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China
Author: Matthew Polley
Publisher: Gotham, December 2007
Summary: This is not your typical travelogue or coming-of-age story, but this Alex Award winner will be as entertaining as any book you’ll read this year. In 1992, Matthew Polley dropped out of Princeton and went to China to learn kungfu from the legendary monks of the Shaolin temple in China. He lived there for two years at the temple, studying kickboxing and becoming the first American to be accepted as a Shaolin disciple.
This book chronicles not only Matthew’s story, but also the rapid changes occurring in rural China during the ’90s, where cultural traditions and social mores truly began to collide with the modernizing influences of the West. Written in an almost irreverent tone with several laugh-out-loud, cringe inducing moments (the noted Iron Crotch technique being among them), American Shaolin is really about the relationships between Matthew, his fellow trainees and monks, and the other laowai (foreigners) who come to Shaolin to study and to profit. The monks of Shaolin, young and old, provide the heart and soul of this terrific book.
Who will like this book?: People looking for a book about the changes in China that isn’t overly political or preachy. Readers who like stories about other cultures. Anyone who harbors fantasies about secretly being the toughest guy in the room…and being able to prove it.
If you like this, try this: A Fighter’s Heart by Sam Sheridan. Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman. Shenzen by Guy Delisle.
Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian