Turning the Page, APSI Concludes Third Summer Book Club

August 17, 2022

APSI’s emerging summer book club tradition wrapped its third year with a series that featured several engaging twists.

Although all sessions took place online, the first event joined a project-in-progress: a collective experiment in reading "Story of The Stone" aka "Dream Of the Red Chamber" (紅樓夢) via an online community. All languages and editions of this Chinese classic novel are welcome. As co-organizer Eileen Chow observed, when establishing this group endeavor, “reading - reading together - can be sustaining.” APSI joined forces with Prof. Chow as well as Wai-yee Li and Ann Waltner to host the first Zoom-based discussion in the series which generally meets via Twitter Spaces and posts prior episodes on its website.

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Anticipating the event, a group member asked, “What am I doing for Pride weekend? Apparently getting up early (west coast time) on a Saturday morning to hang out online with the #ReadingTheStone folks to discuss a more-queer-than-I-expected Chinese book from the 1700s.” After the discussion wrapped, one participant noted, “It was lovely to chat about The Dream of the Red Chamber for an hour with so many wonderful people. It allowed me to temporarily set aside my anger and frustration at the world right now. Literature is self-care.”

Discussion of the second book, Yu Miri’s “Tokyo Ueno Station,” was led by Mariko Azuma, a PhD student in the Art, Art History, and Visual Studies department. The book is both tragic and a compelling look at life, afterlife, marginalization, and the desire to be part of society. The book won the 2020 National Book Award for translated literature. Azuma skillfully led the group through a thematic discussion, touching on important questions of how struggle and loss affect the human psyche.

The final session welcomed a hybrid audience to engage in conversation directly with the visionary writer Yan Lianke, and his long-time collaborator and translator Carlos Rojas. Together, they explored Yan's recently translated novel Hard Like Water (堅硬如水 jiān yìng rú shuǐ), a book that follows two fervent revolutionaries and their various passionate escapades in the Chinese countryside. The in-person audience was especially thrilled to ask the author questions almost as if he was sitting right there in the Franklin Center. Thanks Zoom! All the while Professor Eileen Chow provided skilled interpretation to make the event fully accessible to non-sinophone participants. This was a captivating finale event for the 2022 series. I wonder what's in store for next year...