Writing, New and Old

No blogging here recently because I am in full-on DISSERTATION MODE as I careen down the home stretch. Ten days to go before I have to deliver the finished product to my committee—I’ll make it (I hope!), but working full-bore on the final chapter and editing the ones I’ve already written hasn’t left me with the bandwith to do much of anything else these last few weeks.

However, I have carved out a little bit of time here and there this summer to write some other pieces, and two of them went online this morning. At the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog, my article about a new memoir by Chicago-based author Susan Blumberg-Kason is now up. Her book, Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong, tells the story of her whirlwind romance and difficult marriage to a Chinese man she met while a graduate student in Hong Kong back in the mid-1990s:

“I thought I knew what I was getting into,” is what author Susan Blumberg-Kason told me about her marriage at the age of 24 to a Chinese doctoral student she met while living in Hong Kong. And she had every reason to feel confident: Competent in Mandarin and with multiple trips to China under her belt, she had about as good a grasp of the country as any Westerner could back in 1995, when few had the opportunity to travel widely there.

Over the next five years, however, she came to realize the vast difference between visiting China and trying to become part of a Chinese family.

Second, my monthly contribution to the LA Review of Books China Blog, which is an essay about four short books concerning China in World War I that I read last weekend:

I began with The Siege of Tsingtao, in which journalist Jonathan Fenby recounts the story of the war’s only battle fought in East Asia, which took place in the fall of 1914. Tsingtao (now rendered as Qingdao, though the city’s famous beer retains the old spelling) was Germany’s main territorial holding in China and its base of naval operations in East Asia. Japan had long desired to expand its possessions in China, so it teamed up with Britain to attack the German port almost immediately after war was declared in Europe. Qingdao’s defenders never had a chance of keeping the settlement in German hands: they had few men and no supply lines. Though the Japanese and British forces were slowed down by heavy rains, they prevailed and took control of Qingdao by mid-November. Japan immediately moved to assert itself as the settlement’s new authority; its territorial ambitions in China would have long-reaching consequences.

Finally, I’m going to mention an older book review of mine (in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I guess?). I was looking for something to read the other night before I went to bed and grabbed Midnight in Peking by Paul French off my bookshelf. It’s a true-crime story about the murder of a young Englishwoman in Beijing back in the winter of 1937, and French has a marvelously evocative (though perhaps a tad too creative for strict historian types, which I am not) writing style. I reviewed Midnight in Peking for China Beat back when the book was first published in 2012 and decided to mention it here again because I still enjoyed it the second time around and will continue to recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries, regardless of how much China knowledge you have.

I expect to remain in DISSERTATION MODE for the next ten days and am then heading off to Taiwan for a conference. (The paper for which was due … yesterday. Ack.) After the conference, I’ll be at a beach in southern Taiwan for a week to recover from the combination of DISSERTATION MODE and Conference Mode (still stressful, but not all-caps stressful). Regular blogging will resume August 24, though if anything else I’ve written gets published before then, I’ll drop in here to post the link.

Okay, that’s enough out of me. Back to work.

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One Response to Writing, New and Old

  1. Thank you so much for the mention! I loved “Midnight in Peking”, too and should read it a second time. When I read “Empire Made Me” a year later, I kind of wished it had read more like Paul French’s book.

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