[Saturday Reads] A Chinese Life in Comics

SaturdayReads

Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

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We have just recently launched our new reading theme: Walking the Literary Silk Road – China and the Middle East. As I was scouring our library shelves looking for possible titles, I chanced upon this voluminous graphic novel by Li Kunwu and P. Ôtié.

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I have my doubts as to whether I would be able to finish reading this book (overwhelming 691 pages in all) so I thought I might as well feature it, so that more people would know it exists.

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The jacketflap of the book summarizes effectively what it is all about:

The period of Chinese history covered in Li Kunwu’s staggering graphic memoir, A Chinese Life, has had major implications for Chinese society and the global community. The establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the ultimately disastrous Great Leap Forward and the subsequent Cultural Revolution were formative events in the development of the modern Chinese state. A Chinese Life is remarkable not only for its clear and accessible explanation of those difficult times, but also for the personal testimony of its artist.

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In collaboration with writer Philippe Ôtié, Li Kunwu has exposed the trials and tribulations of the Chinese everyman. From his wholehearted embrace of the new order in childhood, through military service, agricultural labour and membership of the Communist Party, to the challenges of the present day, the reader is given full access to Kunwu’s memories. We witness moments of doubt, betrayal, joy, suffering, comedy, and tenderness – in short, the human experience laid bare.

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This personal approach allows Kunwu and Ôtié to explore pivotal moments from the inside, showing the effect and influence of major events on Kunwu, his family, his friends, and his nation. An intimate portrait of China as depicted by a Communist Party artist, A Chinese Life is by turns informative and inspirational, giving Western readers an invaluable insight into China’s evolution.

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I would also recommend pairing this book with Morgan Chua’s Tiananmen, a compilation of political cartoons about the horrific event that happened in China in 1989 in Tiananmen Square.

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