Broken Portraits: Personal Encounters with Chinese Students

Michael David Kwan, Author China Books & Periodicals $29.95 (198p) ISBN 978-0-8351-2381-5
In the fall of 1988, Kwan, a Chinese-born professor of tourism living in Vancouver, returned to teach in Beijing. There he was feted by officials, ignored by Chinese colleagues and sought out by a slew of desperately unhappy students. In letters and diary entries, he describes these people and his perception of events leading up to the student revolution of May and June 1989. The portraits he sketches, particularly of one student, J., a promising writer, are sympathetic; J. blooms into a serious artist, thanks in part to Kwan's emotional support. Despite himself--for Kwan is very standoffish--he gets half-involved in the protests and finds himself on Tiananmen Square on the eve of the bloody crackdown. These flashes of direct engagement, however, don't make up for the rest of the book. Taken as a whole, Kwan's account lacks persuasive force; for most of this scary and exhilarating period, Kwan was absorbed in himself and his vacations to remote corners of China; he swamps the reader with details of his daily life, which, when they do not say something about China, are simply not interesting. (Dec.) IF YOU LIVED HERE moved into 1019 issue
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 198 pages - 978-0-8351-2429-4
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