Freudenberger fulfills the promise of her 2003 collection of short stories, Lucky Girls, in her expansive first novel. Yuan Zhao, a Chinese performance artist entangled in the subversive community of the Beijing East Village (an artist enclave located in Beijing's "industrial dump"), moves to Los Angeles for an exhibition of his work and to teach studio art to gifted students at the St. Anselm's School for Girls. Upon arrival at the Traverses', his host family, Zhao finds himself in a domestic minefield: Cece Travers, the family matriarch, is having an affair with her brother-in-law, Phil. Meanwhile, her children fumble through adolescence, and her husband, psychiatrist Gordon, phones in his familial obligations. Freudenberger juxtaposes Zhao's early artist days in the East and his unrequited love for the woman he left behind with his solitary life in Los Angeles, where he grows obsessed with a Chinese art student. Under a blanket of cultural misunderstandings and xenophobia, Freudenberger tackles big questions about art: what makes an artist; how artists and writers borrow from each other; and how they appropriate details from the lives of their friends and families. Freudenberger sometimes missteps into humdrum Hollywood satire and uninspired relationship drama, but Zhao is distinctly fresh; it's when describing his journey that Freudenberger's novel takes flight. (Sept.)
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his beguiling first novel centers on a Chinese performance artist and former political prisoner, who travels to Los Angeles to accept a teaching fellowship at a prestigious girls' school. His hosts are a well-off family whose matriarch, Cece Travers, is trapped in a loveless marriage with Gordon, a psychiatrist obsessed with tracing his genealogy back to "the crossing ancestor." A large cast of secondary characters includes Gordon's sister Joan, an accomplished but discontented novelist who stays skinny "by worrying," and his charming but irresponsible brother Phil, who is single-mindedly in love with Cece. Freudenberger demonstrates great talent for capturing the subtleties of cross-cultural and intergenerational relationships, as the dissident's struggles with his past and with his art intersect with Cece's unravelling.
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This book took me a long time to read. It wasn't especially long or filled with difficult prose but I kept putting it down and then picking it back up. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Debrashemesh
Freudenberger's stories fascinate me and although set for the most part in the country I know, they reveal aspects of a foreign culture. Read morePublished 10 months ago by NPark
Wonderful characterization and interesting setting, situation and plot.It is based on a Chinese artist who comes to the United States for an exhibition of is works.Published on July 11, 2013 by Margaret McCleskey
Interesting read- good for discussion group topic on the meaning of art and cultural differences- also identity issues- bought based on later bookPublished on December 12, 2012 by Love to Receive Packages
Got this as a review copy and could barely make it through. Even more static than her short stories.Published on September 22, 2010 by A. St. James
I wanted to like this book, but by page 89, I gave up trying. I didn't connect with any of the characters and the plot wasn't compelling enough for me to continue.Published on August 27, 2010 by Judith Marshall
The first time I visited Beijing's Dashanzi art district several years ago, I wandered into a crowded gallery only to find a guy lying in the middle of the floor, wrapped in a... Read morePublished on December 20, 2008 by A. J. Sutter
This novel is a first person account by a Chinese artist of his year spent in LA on a culteral grant. Read morePublished on January 28, 2008 by rebel_scum
"The Dissident" is a readable and often funny book as long as the author stays with the complications of the LA family who are hosts to the protagonist, the Beijing dissident, but... Read morePublished on October 14, 2007 by E. Milton McDonald