This year’s Shanghai International Literary Festival was a whole lot of fun—I got to see half a dozen excellent writers discuss their latest work, and I hope to post a rundown of all that later today or tomorrow. I was also asked to moderate one session, which featured novelist Virginia Pye talking about the family history behind her first book, River of Dust. It’s an excellent read, whether you’re interested in China or not, and I now have a short review up at the LA Review of Books China Blog:
We find it difficult now to look on the missionary work of a century ago as anything but arrogance, borne out of a conviction that Westerners could “fix” the Chinese by introducing them to Christianity. The missionaries in River of Dust undoubtedly see the world from a high-handed and often condescending perspective. But they also have a deep appreciation, even love, for China and the Chinese in their community. Like Virginia Pye’s own ancestors, her characters question their assumptions about the differences between East and West and find their previously rock-solid convictions on shaky ground.
Read the rest of my review here.