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Community Read 2014 Titles Announced

As part of our school’s mission, our community comes together to discuss a global topic in the fall during an event called Community Read Day. The aim of this program is to empower our students with global knowledge and a respect for diversity that will help them be successful citizens in a changing global community. This year we will be using the following five books to explore Chinese culture. Please select one of the following books to read over the summer.

1) Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman: This anecdotal record of a young man's encounter with the Chinese and their way of life offers unique insights to readers. Salzman majored in Chinese literature at Yale, and his first job after graduation in 1982 was teaching English to students and teachers at Hunan Medical College in Changsha. Salzman had studied martial arts since he was 13, and he continued his practice in Changsha, where one of China's foremost experts, Pan Qingfu, accepted him as a pupil. Readers will become aware of the many styles of the sport, and, incidentally, the real meaning of ``kung fu.'' The personalities encountered range from Salzman's students and teachers to calligraphers, peasants, fishermen, and bureaucrats. Each fascinating episode illuminates the way to a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and character.

2) Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People by Helen Zia: While growing up in New Jersey in the 1950s and '60s, Zia was provided with plenty of American history by her teachers, while her father inundated her with stories of China's past. Yet she was left wondering about people like herself, Asian Americans, who seemed to be "MIH--Missing in History." In this ambitious and richly detailed account of the formation of the Asian-American community--which extends from the first major wave of immigration to Gold Mountain" (as the Chinese dubbed America during the gold rush) to the recent influx of Southeast Asians, who since 1975 have nearly doubled the Asian-American population--Zia fills those absences, while examining the complex origins of the events she relates. The result is a vivid personal and national history, in which Zia guides us through a range of recent flash points that have galvanized the Asian-American community. (Publishers Weekly)

3) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang: As alienated kids go, Jin Wang is fairly run-of-the-mill: he eats lunch by himself in a corner of the schoolyard, gets picked on by bullies and jocks and develops a sweat-inducing crush on a pretty classmate. And, oh, yes, his parents are from Taiwan. This much-anticipated, affecting story about growing up different is more than just the story of a Chinese-American childhood; it's a fable for every kid born into a body and a life they wished they could escape. The fable is filtered through some very specific cultural icons: the much-beloved Monkey King, a figure familiar to Chinese kids the world over, and a buck-toothed amalgamation of racist stereotypes named Chin-Kee. Jin's hopes and humiliations might be mirrored in Chin-Kee's destructive glee or the Monkey King's struggle to come to terms with himself, but each character's expressions and actions are always perfectly familiar. Yang accomplishes the remarkable feat of practicing what he preaches with this book: accept who you are and you'll already have reached out to others. (Publishers Weekly)

4) Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans by Jean Pfaelzer: Pfaelzer, professor of American studies, reveals one of the most disgraceful chapters in American history--the purging of thousands of Chinese immigrants in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain region between 1850 and 1906. Drawing on newspaper accounts, diaries, legal pleadings, and photographs, Pfaelzer retells the story of the horrific purge of the Chinese. Testifying in their own words, Chinese businessmen recall being driven out of their shops, while women tell of being forced into prostitution; they were driven from gold mines, orchards, and small towns in the booming West. She compares the expulsions to those in Nazi Germany, as well as modern Rwanda and Bosnia, and puts the Driven Out campaign into the broader context of American racism. (ALA)

5) The Hundred Secret Senses: A Novel by Amy Tan: Olivia, the narrator of this story, was born to an American mother and a Chinese father. She meets her 18-year-old Chinese half sister, Kwan, for the first time shortly after their father's death. Kwan adores "Libby-ah" and tries to introduce her to her Chinese heritage through stories and memories. Olivia is embarrassed by her sibling, but finds as she matures that she has inadvertently absorbed much about Chinese superstitions, spirits, and reincarnation. Now in her mid-30s, Olivia, a photographer, is still seeking a meaningful life. The climax of the story comes when she and her estranged husband Simeon, a writer, go to China on assignment with Kwan as the interpreter. In the village in which she grew up, Kwan returns to the world of Yin, her mission completed. The meshing of the contemporary story of Olivia and the tales Kwan tells of her past life in late-19th century China may confuse some readers. (School Library Journal)

A resource page will be included on our school website in late July.  Please see the following link to the full, printable document and suggestions for reading strategies.  

Written by: Lisa Justice
Posted: Jun 26, 2014 by Lisa Justice

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