Publishers: Livingston Press, University of West Alabama
To read award- winning writer Xujun (pronounced “shoe”-“June”) Eberlein’s collection of short fiction compiled in her Apologies Forthcoming is to be wrapped up in the lives of an array of individuals who participated in China’s Cultural Revolution that began in the summer of 1966 and terminated with Mao Zedong’s death in 1976.
The Cultural Revolution emanated when, with the assistance of the masses, Mao succeeded in destroying the state apparatus, thus piloting the country into bedlam and disorder. There wasn’t anyone in China who was not involved in one way or another by the Cultural Revolution and this included students from middle school through university who became the Red Guards. It was also an era where books were destroyed or seized, libraries were shut down and it was impossible to pursue higher university learning until a decade later. As we read in the anthology, there was also a program set up where young people from the cities who were called “inserts” were sent to the country- side to help the farmers and be re-educated by the poor peasants.
Eberlein, through her collection of intimate snapshots, provides us with a thought-provoking experience, a sudden immersion into a world that as Eberlein describes in one of her interviews, “an all people movement.” She goes on to state that “there was often no clear divide between the victims and victimizers, and people took turns in both positions.”
One of Eberlein’s greatest strengths is her careful attention to her characters that are stylistically strong and totally convincing as she astutely uses them to explore human conduct during an era of which most of us have very little understanding.In addition, what I found most fascinating about these stories is that each unfolds like a brainteaser challenging us to figure out what the author wishes to convey, particularly that most of the tales resonate with subtleties and nuances.
This is quite apparent when we read Disciple of the Masses whereEberleinnarrates the story of how a well- intentioned girl takes food away from hungry farmers. In Second Encounter we read about two idealistic young boys who attempt to shoot one another only to meet up many years later and wonder what was really their motive and in Men Don’t Apologize we have a tale of a former Red Guard who cannot bring himself to apologize to his victim. Feathers is a very sensitive and sad tale about a the loss of a young girl’s sister and how the family copes with tragedy wherein the girl’s grandmother is not told about the death of her grandchild.
Xujun Eberlein grew up in Chongqing (also known as Chungking), China and moved to the U.S.A with her American husband in 1988. She earned a Ph.D from MIT and prior to becoming a writer she worked for a high tech company. As a writer she has won several literary awards and her stories and essays have been published in the USA, Canada, England, Kenya and Hong Kong in magazines as AGNI, Walrus, PRISM International, StoryQuarterly, Stand and Kwani.Apologies Forthcoming was the winner of the 2007 Tartt Fiction Award and recently the Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded her with an artist fellowship in fiction/creative nonfiction.
The above review was contributed by: The Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com, Norm Goldman, B.A. LL.L, Retired Title Attorney: Norm is also a travel writer and together with his artist wife, Lily, the couple meld Norm's words with Lily's art. To check out their travel site click on Sketchandtravel.comClick here to view Norm’s Reviews & Interviews.