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WSJ Reviews Karoline Kan's Memoir

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发表于 3-13-2019 16:34:41 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Julian Gewirth, Living the Chinese Dream. Wall Street Journal, Mar 9, 2019
https://www.wsj.com/articles/und ... e-dream-11552081441
(book review on Karoline Kan 阚超群, Under Red Skies; Three generations of life, loss, and hope in China. Hachette, 2019)

Quote:

"When the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping died in February 1997, Karoline Kan had no idea who he was. Her elementary-school teacher in a town in northern China dramatically interrupted class with the news and exhorted the children to mourn. 'I know you are so sad, as am I,' the teacher said. 'Thanks to our headmaster's support, we can all watch the funeral and pay our respects to Grandpa Deng together. You can cry. . . . I know you want to weep for our dearest Grandpa Deng.' A school administrator watched expectantly from the back of the room. A few students managed to squeeze out tears, Ms Kan recalls, but she could barely hold back laughter.

"Her goal [in her memoir] is to highlight the experiences  of ordinary people, cutting through sweeping generalities to 'reveal the emotions, choices, and compromises, the courage, love, and hope we share with people around the world.' A writer and editor living in Beijing who previously worked for the New York Times, Ms Kan Kan presents a heartfelt introduction to China's recent history -- and a firsthand dispatch from its millennial generation, a perspective all too rare in English-language publications.

"Ms Kan grew up poor in a country that was becoming rich. She was born in 1989, the second child of parents who were forbidden from having multiple children under China's one-child policy. But her mother, a schoolteacher, used multiple subterfuges to avoid the horror of state-mandated sterilization or abortion. Ms Kan is acutely aware that her generation enjoys opportunities that her mother and and grandmother never had, 'tak[ing] for granted the abundance of resources, products, and big shopping malls.' She writes movingly of the 'wilful women of my family' who 'pushed me to move forward and be unafraid and confident about my decisions, as they had to be in order for me to exist.'   Yet 'Under Red Skies' shows that China remains a relentlessly patriarchal society for the women of Ms Kan's generation

"China's leaders, she suggests, are too complacent about the country's persistent inequalities, whether based on gender or on hukou, a nationwide system of household residency registration that controls internal migration. When Ms Kan's family moves from their village to the town of Lutai 天津市宁河区芦台镇, they become 'migrants' in this system. Even as she faces discrimination from teachers, classmates and neighbors, moving to Lutai still appears to have been the only way for her family to seek upward mobility, because its schools are far better than those in their village. Both Ms Kan and her brother eventually gains acceptance to universities in Beijing, opening up a world of hard-won opportunities.  The system in Beijing is equally rigged. When she applies for jobs, it seems as if every aspect of her identity works against her: 'Employers filter their CVs: male, check; Beijing hukou, check; good-looking, check; rich parents, even better. I had none of those assets.' Yet she overcomes these obstacles and becomes a successful reporter and writer.

"Ms Kan gives readers reasons to hope tat more first-person accounts from China’s millennials generation will become widely available. For those seeking to understand the future of China and US-China relations, voices like hers are an essential part of the conversation.

Note: The review is locked behind paywall. There is  no need to read the rest.

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