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Descent Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Length: 172 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

C. H. ZHU, born and raised in China, studied writing at New York University and the University of Oregon, and published stories and essays in both English and Chinese.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1668 KB
  • Print Length: 172 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: C.H.Zhu; 2nd edition (April 6, 2014)
  • Publication Date: April 6, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,379,421 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
An accomplished coming-of-age novel that explores the difficulties facing a gay man from a Chinese family. In a society where each family is restricted to a single child, and all hopes of future offspring are vested in that one son or daughter, homosexuality must represent the ultimate curse. The book is beautifully written and assembled, the single point of view strictly adhered to throughout, with whole sections of the text reading like an autobiography. This is where I had my biggest problem with the story, for it moved too slowly and lacked interest for me. I enjoy mysteries and thrillers. This book was no thriller, nor did it harbor any mystery. There was some suspense, but only in the last 3-4 chapters. It might have been better if the catastrophic events near the end of the story were hinted at or foreshadowed early on in order to engage the reader's curiosity.

I spotted remarkably few typos (7 of them). The writing style was clear, literate and refreshing. I recommend the book for its insight into contemporary Chinese culture and the downstream effects of the Cultural Revolution. 4.3 stars.
JJ Toner. From The Kindle Book Review
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
C. H. Zhu's Descent is a gem.

In 2003 Dr. Wu Rong, a Shanghai native in his early thirties working halfway around the world as a pathologist in Augusta, Maine, clearly prefers having sex with men. But he can't refuse to marry a woman and have a traditional family. If he does, he'll utterly destroy the hopes and dreams of his mother.

Although Descent includes its share of other colorful and unique characters, it's all about Dr. Wu and the woman known only as "Rongrong's mother."

Western readers in 2013 might be tempted to dismiss Wu Rong and his wildly controlling mother as throwbacks to an era of homophobia we've come to despise. This would be a mistake. Both Wu and his mother, trapped in the plot of their story against their will, are deeply sympathetic.

The Maoists destroyed the fortune of the Wu family. As she lay dying, Wu Rong's paternal grandmother arranged the marriage of his father (who seems to have been as "abnormal" in his desires as his son) to the impoverished woman from a farming village who'd become her nurse.
Rongrong's mother, speaking of her son, says this to his father: "Everything we do is for him." Wu Rong tells us: "Only through me could she look to the future."

And the writing is consistently lovely. Wu describes the Taiwanese man who seduced him when he was 31 and still a virgin: "He resembled a protagonist in a children's adventure series, a boy wandering through a marginal land, searching, digging, examining, and contemplating."
Wu tells us: "I had always wanted to feel normal. I had always looked normal. Proper, polite, hard-working, and friendly." He wanted something else, too: "To be left alone in this world.
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This is a fine piece of work. I was struck by how well the author creates a set of tensions that drive the story forward. Having had some experience with Chinese culture and history, I admire how the author presents the dynamics of the protagonist's family, where his mother confronts and overcomes every threat and obstacle to the academic success of her son. She doesn't even blanch at subordinating father to son: when guests stay over, the father has to relinquish his bed and sleep on the son's bedroom floor. Why does the father endure this affront to his patriarchal dignity? Having been beaten down by the Maoist assault on the petty bourgeoisie, he has no fight left. He quietly amuses himself caring for caged birds, fellow inmates.

There is also the tension between the boy's own desire to be himself and the mold his mother is cleverly stuffing him into. She, by the way, may be one of the best representations of the Chinese mother in literature, not the perky "Tiger Mom," but the relentless, blinkered (and yet still sympathetic) carrier of tradition. Packed in here is the tension between the young man's emerging sexual orientation and the iron expectation that, once educated and successful, he will find a wife and start a family.

Then there's the tug between America and China. One might suppose that by escaping to Maine and finding a quiet niche as small town pathologist, he could escape, maybe in some way become like the eagle he admires from his apartment window. He might even find room to express his sexuality. But although he does have one intense encounter, in the end, after a horrific incident during a visit home, his mother pulls him back into the cage. But read the book; you'll see how.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book was beautifully written and at times, incredibly sad. While many aspects of this book are specific to Chinese culture, or unique to the struggle of accepting one's sexual orientation, many of Wu's struggles seem universal. For example, the conflict between pleasing one's parents and living one's own life. Or the worry that you might end up living a life that has the same problems as your parents. Or what it means to be happy, or fulfilled, or free.

Wu's relationship with his mother is contrasted with his relationship with his father. Throughout Wu's childhood he seems sad, distant, almost not really there. Wu knows of his father's history through his aunts - a history that involves the Communist and Cultural Revolution - but he struggles to really know his father. He knows stories, like how his father met his mother, but he doesn't know the person.

I found Wu's character incredibly sympathetic in that he really tries to be honest with himself and others, and he also constantly tries to put other people's needs ahead of his. Unfortunately, he finds that making one person happy often means hurting someone else - or himself.

I was impressed by the complexity of this book. Zhu layers history, culture, class and societal norms across continents and decades. In a relatively short book he shows how truly difficult it can be to meet the expectations of our families and cultures, as well as the expectations we place on ourselves. On the issue of acceptance of homosexuality, this is not just an "issue book" - Zhu really makes you think about how difficult it is for Wu to accept his own sexuality. It's not just an issue of rights or culture.
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