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Years of Red Dust: Stories of Shanghai Hardcover – September 28, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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The Underground Railroad
The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Wonderfully accessible...His best book yet." --Time Magazine
 
"Witty, evocative...[Xiaolong has] a sharp eye and portrays the ordinary man adrift." --The Washington Post

About the Author

QIU XIAOLONG is a poet, professor and author of five previous novels featuring Inspector Chen. Born and raised in Shanghai, where he was a renowned poet and translator, Qiu lives with his family in St. Louis, Missouri.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312628099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312628093
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am fairly familiar with Qiu's novels (the Chief Inspector Chen series), so I was extremely excited to see if his short stories would be as similarly captivating and engrossing as his mystery novels. I was certainly not disappointed--even though Qiu's short stories are markedly different in tone and content, you can still feel Qiu's style in these works.

Years of Red Dust is a great collection of short stories about Shanghai--most of which take place in a traditional lane (I believe the one in which Qiu himself grew up) and involve a variety of interesting characters and narratives. They provide a critical insight not only into Shanghai and China, but also into the Cultural revolution and the effects of Communism both then and now. I actually found these stories to be more powerful than most of the true tales of the Cultural Revolution that I've read before; Qiu manages to add a beautiful dimension of literary introspection that sometimes 1st-hand narratives are frequently hard-pressed to portray.

Overall, a great read--both in terms of history and literature. Qiu brings you straight into the hearts of the Chinese people and everything they encountered during their "Years of Red Dust."

Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
The title of this book is something of a pun. The author, Qui Ziaolong, a poet, writer of detective novels, and professor, born and raised in Shanghai and now living in St. Louis, is referencing not only stories of the residents of an actual lane in Shanghai called Red Dust Lane, but also the defining events that followed the Communist takeover of China in 1949.

Each chapter begins with a brief excerpt from the final issue of the year of the fictional "Red Dust Lane Blackboard Newsletter," which details the upheavals that marked life in a specific year from 1949 to 2005, including the Cultural Revolution and the political and scientific advances made by China. Following each of these entries is a fascinating human interest story about a resident of the lane as it pertains to the particular turbulent events of that year. These stories, while short, are beautifully and sympathetically written, thoroughly engrossing, seeming very true to life in that very unique milieu, and -- as might be expected -- told with the subtle slant of the expatriate author. Liberally sprinkled with and enriched by apt Chinese proverbs, the book draws the reader into the outlook and daily life of the residents as they cook in the communal kitchen, gossip together in the lane, and adapt as well as they can to the rapid and sometimes confounding changes that are taking place around them.

"Years of Red Dust" is a quick, but powerful read. I was very delighted and not surprised to see the book featured as an Editor's Choice in The New York Times book section on Sunday, October 24th.
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Format: Hardcover
I have recently revisited China after last being on a trade mission in the 1970's to China. The level of change in the thirty years was not thirty years, but 300 years. I expected a series of stories outlining these enormous changes. Yes, the changes are there, a little, but these are heart-felt, engrossing, sometimes tear-jerking stories that are like precious gems. It is like being taken into the warmth, happiness, sadness, tears, love, joy, struggles, humor, family and rewards of Chinese culture. I don't read many short stories, but the common thread of these stories, related only by a Shanghai lane, makes this a delightful, often uplifting, extremely well written, sensitive book. It's not very long, and not scary like some of the other literature that takes place during these decades. This is a beautiful gem.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This cleverly conceived little book gives us the history of China from Mao onward in the form of neighborhood gossip.

Each chapter begins with a yearend newsletter from the inhabitants of shabby, working-class Red Dust Lane. The upbeat party line patter summarizes China's great achievements of that year. Following that comes a story that tells the real story.

We relive the experiences of educated youths, class enemies, model workers, stinking capitalists, worker poets, girlfriends of convenience, aging youths, Red Guards and Big Bucks - in a schizophrenic society where the rules are always changing.

YEARS OF RED DUST is an impressive piece of writing. Qui Xiaolong's lively prose is peppered with Chinese proverbs, Confucian wisdom, Maoist slogans and colorful Shanghai expressions.

The anecdotal nature of the book somehow delivers a panoramic picture of the political and economic climate in China from 1949 through 2005. But the big picture is always shown in small things. For the neighbors in Red Dust Lane, this is "seeing the world in a grain of sand."

As I drifted through this book, liking it more and more, I picked up all sorts of fascinating cultural tidbits. One example: crickets found in cemeteries are believed to absorb infernal spirits - and so make champion cricket fighters.

I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of literary fiction - and of course to anyone interested in the mindboggling contortions of recent Chinese history.
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