07/17/14

Good Chinese Wife – A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong

Good Chinese Wife Cover

Good Chinese Wife by Susan Blumberg-Kason is the must read book this year about China and international relationships. In this memoir Susan describes how she moves to Hong Kong for her master’s degree and by chance meets a handsome Chinese guy from Mainland China. On nightly tutoring sessions Susan and Cai fall in love, getting into a totally new adventure for Susan.

Unfortunately after getting married in Hong Kong, things slowly start to change and Susan finds herself making excuses behalf of her new husband. But whether it’s just about cultural differences or if it goes to fundamental differences between two people, that’s often hard to know at first.

“I wanted to respect Cai’s culture and show his parents that I enjoyed their cooking and appreciated their hospitality, but at the same time, I feared I’d grow resentful if I didn’t start standing up for myself.”

I don’t remember when I heard about Good Chinese Wife first, but I was thrilled when Jocelyn from Speaking of China contacted me and gave me the opportunity to review the memoir. And even be part of the official book tour! I finished the whole book in two days! Just couldn’t let it out of my hands once I started reading it. As I got married with my Chinese guy this year, I could in some regards relate to Susan’s story of how it’s like to fall in love with someone from a totally different culture.

I could relate to the excitement Susan had when she first sees Cai and how eagerly she waited for their every meeting. In some regard I also related to their visits to Cai’s parents, where she was first very polite and made sure to give a good impression. But soon she also learned an important thing, you have to be true to yourself if you want to be happy in your new family. According to her beliefs she didn’t eat pork and often politely declined cheering with alcohol.

“Until now I thought the strains we’d had in our marriage stemmed from cultural differences. But now I was beginning to consider whether the problems might be due to character, not to culture.”

Throughout the book you can feel how deeply Susan loves Cai and does everything she can to save their marriage. Her touching words and stories got me into tears the further read. With her book Susan is being so amazingly brave to let us all in to her life, openly sharing even the most bitter twists and turns in their love story.

Good Chinese Wife – A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong is a remarkable honest account of what happens when you fall head over your heels into love, without actually knowing the real person standing next to you. It’s the pain that comes when you start learning the ugly little truths about your loved one, when your heart still wants to make excuses for that person, thinking there might still be a good explanation for all the strange incidents.

I wholeheartedly recommend Susan Blumberg-Kason’s Good Chinese Wife to all of my readers. By reading the book you get an insider’s view of being a member of a Chinese family, how hard it can be to accept the truth that your international marriage isn’t what you bargained for and how brave you can be when it’s time to protect you and your child.

Susan Blumberg-Kason author photoSusan Blumberg-Kason is a freelance journalist in Chicago. As a child growing up in suburban Chicago, she dreamed of the neon street signs and double-decker buses of Hong Kong. In her late teens, she left for a year abroad in Hong Kong and ended up spending most of the twenties there. She studied Mandarin and completed a master’s degree in political science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Susan is now back in the Chicago area, where she lives with her family. Her work has appeared in many newspapers and magazines. You can find her online at www.susanbkason.com.

Good Chinese Wife is now available for pre-orders on Amazon, click here to order your own copy of my favorite book of the year. If you decide to purchase the book through affiliate links in this post, you will also help to support my blog, thank you!

06/23/14

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia

Dragonfruit Front Cover

What it’s like to be a Western woman living in the Asia? Trying to respect and learn the culture while still holding on to your dear values and ideas. No other book can better express the different stories we have than the newly published anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?: True Stories of Expat Women in Asia (affiliate link).

In the book 26 women from all over the world share their true stories in different countries in the East Asia. They are backpackers, expatriates, single women, mothers, wifes, all living in a new culture very different from their own. They feel joy, fear, love, hate, excitement, confusion, all the feelings in the spectrum while finding their selves and their lives in Asia.

I loved the book because it portraits such a rare peek into the lives of these twenty-six women. Even though many of them are living in different countries and situations than me, I could still see common themes and feelings bubbling up on the stories and in my life.

When reading I can totally smell the father-in-law’s dirty socks on Jocelyn Eikenburg‘s story of how she and her husband went to their honeymoon  – with her father-in-law! I could never imagine doing the same thing my self, so I have always admired how filial daughter-in-law Jocelyn is. While following their steps on the Yellow Mountain, the most moving part is where the father soothes Jocelyn who faces her fear of heights in a cable car.

At the moment Jocelyn is working on her own memoir, Red all over, that hopefully will be published soon. I can’t wait to read it!

If even the thought of those socks made me dizzy, I got tears on my eyes while reading several touching stories in the anthology. When Susan’s doctor tells her “Please know that in Chinese culture husbands might cheat, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love their wives” she blocks the devastating news from her mind, refusing to tell others what have happened. I remember the same kind of fear of letting others know, when my ex-boyfriend continuously treated me badly, ending up to cheating pretty much under my nose.

Susan Blumberg-Kason’s memoir, Good Chinese Wife (affiliate link), will be published on 29th of July and is now available for pre-orders. I think I can reveal that I was lucky to get a chance to review it as well and before my review comes out next month, I can just say the book is totally a must-read for all my readers!

The best thing about How Does One Dress To Buy Dragonfruit is the variety of stories and all the feelings it brings up while reading. In the editor’s foreword Shannon Young shares the questions we all have when moving abroad:

How can I be respectful of the rules of this new culture? When do I choose not to adhere to the norms of my adopted home? Should I assimilate? Should I be independent? Or accommodating? Where is the point of equilibrium for a modern woman navigating a new culture?

In one sentence, this anthology tell you how twenty-six brave women from different cultures answers these questions in their own lives when living in Asia.

If you haven’t already, get How Does One Dress To Buy Dragonfruit from Amazon and start reading the touching stories right away!

10/14/13

China Book Recommendations – and a lucky draw winner

chinabooksMy China books in China, doesn’t include all learning material or books in Finland

Thank you everyone for taking part at the very first lucky draw of this blog! First I will announce the winner and then share everyone’s China book recommendations, so we all can have something new on our reading lists.

Links to the books are Amazon affiliate links that helps this blog to pay for web hosting.

The winner for free ebook copy of P.R.C – Pretty Real China is: Jonathan

Congratulations! I will give your email address to the author who will then arrange the book to you directly.

Here is Jonathan’s winning comment (chosen by random.org):

Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French.

A first-rate murder story, a thrilling narrative. Hurtles along from one cliffhanger to the next. An account of the unsolved brutal murder of young Pamela Werner, in the last days before Peking fell to Japanese invaders.

China Book Recommendations

In total 15 readers took part in the lucky draw, below you can find the recommendations of the rest 14 readers. Many of these books are available in Kindle format which allows you to read them right after purchasing with your Kindle or other device such as iPad.

Jim:

Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler

Michelle:

Cole and Degan:
Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Imperial China
Fun and informational, the drawings are great!

Becky:

Wild Swans by Jung Chang. It’s just amazing to me what 3 generations of women in China went through. From the foot bound grandma to the red guard mom and finally the daughter studying overseas. If it was fiction it wouldn’t be believable! haha

wallaby78:

I’ll go with The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck because it’s one of the first books I read about China.

chinaelevatorstories:

Peter Hessler’s River Town, I really like his thoughtful style of writing

Chris_Waugh:

Iron and Silk” by Mark Salzman. A memoir of his time teaching English and learning martial arts in Changsha in the early 80s. It’s a fascinating glimpse at what China was back then, partly because I recognised so much of the city he described (I lived in Changsha in 1999 and 2000), and partly because of how incredibly different his experience of Changsha was from mine.

R Zhao:

I LOVE Peter Hessler. For China newbies, especially those coming to teach English, I think “River Town” is a great pick. For those already familiar with China, I think Hessler’s “Country Driving” might be better. Before coming to China I also read “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang and really enjoyed it.

I like Ha Jin for fiction; “Waiting” is a book that I won’t soon forget. For a look into the lives and hardships of late 20th century Chinese women, “The Good Women of China” by Xin Ran is heartbreaking. I recently read Gilman’s “Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven” (I hate the title and nearly didn’t read the book because of it) and it was a funny, yet terrifying account of two American women backpacking through China when it first reopened in the mid-80’s.

Ellen:

Chinese Etiquette & Ethics In Business by Boye Lafayette De Mente!

This book captured my attention in the first place and I haven’t regretted buying it. Although the name suggests it is about business, it still concentrates on the underlying reasons (!) of why Chinese and China are the way they are. This book gives you a deep understanding of Asian cultures (in this case, Chinese then). Boye has published various books about the Korean, Chinese and Japanese culture. I believe, she is the professional in Asian studies.

c1re5an:

I’d say the 1st book I read about China was the famous The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. Before this one I had read lots of books about Japan, but none about China! I enjoyed that book because while reading it you really can see the importance of working hard and which are the valuable things in life.

Teya:

Waiting by Ha Jin

Seija Sultan:

Alesandra Meniconzi: HIDDEN CHINA ON THE TRAILS OF OLD TRADITIONS
A spectacular photographic documentary
“There is nothing in this world that does not change; nothing remains forever as it once was”. (Zhuangzi. 365-290 B.C.)

Kit:

Beijing Doll by Chun Sue. My all-time favourite teenage angst book. :D

Robert Budzul:

Foreign Babes in Beijing by Rachel DeWoskin

It’s been a while since I read it but I do remember being captivated by it. Many memoirs of life in China are good reading but the author in this case wasn’t just a backpacker or an English teacher. Well written. I suggest looking it up and reading the blurb; it won’t lie.

catherine:

Mr China by Tim Clissold

Thank you everyone for your recommendations! Some of these I’ve read already, some of them I have in Finland or here in China. But I got many new ones for my reading list too.

What about you? Which are new books to you and which you have read already?

10/7/13

Recommend your favourite China book – Win a free book

We all have our favourite books about China, books that teach us more about this amazing culture that we are or want to be a part of. Books that help us make the decision to move to China and make our dreams come true. Books that make us laugh and relate to the author’s story.

Now it’s time to have our very first lucky draw here at Living a Dream in China and recommend your favourite books to me and other readers!

If you’re lucky, you can win a free digital copy of a new book called P.R.C  – Pretty Real China!

Writer and photographer Denis Lejeune lived in Chongqing for three years. Three long years. With 9 millions souls, the former capital of China numbered some… 200 Westerners and no foreign restaurant. The closest English bookshop was 300km away. Call it total immersion.

Lejeune had moved there hungry for novelty and eager to exchange, why not even share, with people from a culture known to be so different. Things, however, didn’t go to script.

In eight striking chapters, P.R.C – Pretty Real China documents his disillusion while unveiling a critical country which the West still only knows through quick clichés. The book is also available in French, under the title Le Pire du Milieu.

Denis Lejeune has published several books, in French and English, poems, short stories and numerous articles. His photographic work has toured China and France, and he is currently working on a visual book to complement P.R.C – Pretty Real China.

Now to the lucky draw rules:

1. Leave a comment to this post with your China book recommendation that includes the reason why you recommend this book. Remember to add the whole title of the book and the author.  Also remember to add your email!

2. Everyone has one ticket to the lucky draw.

3. The winner will be randomly chosen by me, everyone has a fair chance to win.

4. The lucky draw continues until Sunday 24:00 CST (that’s UTC/GMT +8 hours)

4. Results with the winner’s name and book recommendations will be live on Monday 14th October. The book will be delivered to the winner digitally, so you can start reading right away no matter where in the globe you are.

Good luck!