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Excerpt: The Book of Swindles

The roads and rivers of China saw a steady stream of travelers during the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), as merchants moved from place to place, creating a vibrant commercial network that bound together the country’s flourishing southern cities. On the road, however, people were vulnerable: cut off from familiar places and faces, it was easy to fall prey to the roving con men who had devised a plethora of get-rich-quick schemes that would relieve their victims of money and goods. English-language readers can now learn about a wide range of the frauds perpetrated in 17th-century China by picking up The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (Columbia University Press, 2017), written by Zhang Yingyu (fl. 1612-17) and recently translated by AAS Members Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk, both professors in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. Zhang’s work, Rea and Rusk write in the book’s introduction, “presents a panoramic survey of dec ...

Hong Kong Noir

I’ve just landed in Hong Kong to do several different things, most of which fit into one of the three standard academic categories of activities. I’ll participate in an experimental class session connecting Hong Kong and American students via Skype (teaching); visit a local site associated with the topic of protest that I write about a lot (research); and speak about censorship at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club, drawing on my experiences as Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies during what some are calling the “China Quarterly Affair” (service). As I prepared for the trip, I pondered questions relating to these teaching, research, and service events, as well as the session of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival I’ll moderate, at which Ian Johnson will present material from his new book on the religious revival in China after Mao. Even more, though, I thought about two queries linked to a Literary Festival event that I’ll attend not as a teacher, ...

A Mother’s Memories Inspire a Daughter’s Journey

By Kathleen Burkinshaw The journey that led me to write The Last Cherry Blossom, a book for middle-grade readers about the atomic bombing of Japan, began about eight years ago with one question. My daughter was in 7th grade at the time, and something that happened in her history class had upset her. They would be covering the end of World War II that week; after class, she overheard some kids talking about how they couldn’t wait to see the “cool mushroom cloud picture.” She asked if I would speak to her class about the people under the mushroom cloud that day—people like her Grandma. I called my mother and asked if it was okay to tell others about her experience in Hiroshima. My mom was a very private person and never spoke about August 6th in public. When I was a young child, she told me she came from Tokyo. Only after I questioned her about the nightmares she had at the beginning of every August did she confide that she had actually been born in Hiroshima. She told me how she lost ...

AAS Member Spotlight: Kathleen Burkinshaw

Kathleen Burkinshaw Author of the middle-grades historical fiction book, The Last Cherry Blossom Your discipline and country (or countries) of interest: Historical fiction; Japan How long have you been a member of AAS? Two months. Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues? I want to be a part of a community that values Asian history and culture that I can learn from and contribute to. I visit with many schools to discuss my mother’s Hiroshima experience and The Last Cherry Blossom, and will be sure to mention the valuable information at #AsiaNow. How did you first become involved in the field of Asian Studies? I first became involved when my daughter was in 7th grade. Her class was studying World War II and she overheard some kids saying they couldn’t wait to see the “cool mushroom cloud” pictures. This deeply upset her and she asked me to visit her class and talk about the people under those now famous mushroom clouds—people like her gr ...

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