Here are my latest book recommendations for Northwest Asian Weekly:
Pearl of China
By Anchee Min
In the southern Chinese town of Chin-kiang during the late 19th century, two young girls meet. The first girl is Willow, the only child of a destitute family. The second girl is Pearl, the daughter of American missionaries working to spread the word of God throughout China. Pearl will later become Nobel Prize-winning writer and activist Pearl S. Buck, but for now, she is a pale-skinned, blue-eyed child who goes around wearing a black knitted cap to disguise her blonde hair.
The two girls initially dislike each other, but eventually become best friends. “Pearl” follows their decades-long friendship, which survives multiple husbands, a civil war, the Cultural Revolution, and more.
Willow and Pearl’s loyalty to each other is nothing short of admirable. The two are the embodiment of the acronym “BFF.” I was particularly touched by Willow’s refusal to denounce Pearl after Mao’s regime deems her an imperialist. She risks her husband’s job, as well as her life and even spends years in prison, but Willow refuses to turn against her friend. We can only hope to develop such relationships throughout the course of our lives.
Although the story is told from Willow’s perspective, readers gain insight into what life might have been like for a young white girl who grew up among Chinese peasants, spoke like a native, and was skeptical of the God her father preached about every day. This role reversal is a refreshing change among the countless novels following non-white characters and their lives as the minority in their world.
To read the rest of the story, click here.