Fact in Fiction
1920s China and Ba Jin's Family
Stanford University Press 2016
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in East Asian StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in LiteratureNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network October 5, 2016 Carla Nappi
Kristin Stapleton’s new book opens onto a political crisis in China, and into a spirit of reform touched off by student demonstrations on May 4, 1919. Ba Jin was a teenager from a well-off family in Chengdu during this period. He wrote three popular novels Family, Spring, and Autumn, collectively known as the Turbulent Stream trilogy set in the reformist 1920s and in his hometown of Chengdu. Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family (Stanford University Press, 2016) focuses on one of them–Family– in order to look carefully at the ways that Chengdu in the May Fourth era inspired Ba Jin’s fiction. Each chapter takes one or more characters in the trilogy as its starting point, and the chapters collectively explore some central themes, including the physical transformation of Chinese cities in the early twentieth century, patriarchy and the Confucian family, militarist politics and Chinese cities in the first decades of the twentieth century, and the effects of revolutions in cultural values and social structure in the early twentieth-century on Chinese families and cities. Stapleton pays careful attention to many different kinds of members of the urban community in 1920s Chengdu: laborers, entrepreneurs, beggars and slaves, merchants, soldiers, students, the foreign community. The result is not only a pleasure to read, but will also be exceptionally useful to teach with!