Bamboo Swaying in the Wind: A Survivor's Story of Faith and Imprisonment in Communist China

Claudia Devaux, Author, George Bernard Wong, Joint Author
Claudia Devaux, Author, George Bernard Wong, Joint Author Loyola Press $21.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-8294-1458-5
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Many historical texts have addressed the demise of religion in China after the Communists took over in 1949, but personal narratives from Catholics in China have been almost nonexistent. For this reason, this memoir by a Chinese Jesuit priest who was imprisoned for more than 25 years will draw a large audience, but most readers will come away discouraged because it does not live up to its potential. Wong's story of being jailed for his faith is indeed compelling, but Devaux's editorial intrusions make the narrative unnecessarily choppy and confusing. At the beginning of each chapter, Devaux comments on the information to come, often explaining what is clear through Wong's words alone. She would have done better to provide more detailed historical background; readers unfamiliar with Chinese protectionist policies, Western missionary activity, or the bloody Taipei Rebellion will struggle to understand the religious and political forces at work in Wong's story. In the last chapter Devaux attempts to provide the thick description that would make this oral history more accessible (such as how Catholicism adapted to native Confucian practices, why the philosophy of St. Ignatius is so appealing to the Chinese, and how the titular metaphor of a ""bamboo swaying in the wind"" reflects Wong's tenacity), but these analyses come too late. China buffs, historians, and Catholics will find this story mildly interesting, yet lament what could have been. (Sept.)
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