An American Bum in China, Tom Carter (Camphor Press, September 2019)
An American Bum in China, Tom Carter (Camphor Press, September 2019)

An American Bum in China: Featuring the bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans is the remarkable but true story of an Iowan misfit. At the age of twenty-one, cancer survivor Evans flees his Mississippi River hometown of Muscatine and heads to China in pursuit of love. He ends up destitute, deported, working as a professor at a prestigious university, homeless, imprisoned, and an accidental participant in the 2014 Hong Kong protests.

Frank Dikötter, author of the acclaimed People’s Trilogy, focuses his latest book on the special role personality cults have played in eight eerily effective 20th-century dictatorships. The wryly titled How to Be a Dictator reminds readers of the depressingly similar tactics tyrants have used throughout history to destroy rivals and win acquiescence, if not exactly adulation, of the people.

Robert Macfarlane and Kathleen Jamie are the two most critically vaunted practitioners of the wildly fertile British publishing phenomenon known as “new nature writing”—though both reportedly resist that genre designation, and both are as much writers of history and human culture as of nature. Both explore these themes in similarly exquisite prose, but their tones and emphases are quite different, and their authorial performances have at times been contrastingly—and in Jamie’s case, one suspects, deliberately—gendered. While Macfarlane was bivouacking in the mountains, Jamie was watching falcons through the kitchen window; it was she who coined the phrase surely destined to dog Macfarlane for the rest of his days: the “lone enraptured male”.

The Only Man Dressing for Dinner: Beijing 1900, Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, Angelo Paratico (trans, intro) (Gingko, August 2019)
The Only Man Dressing for Dinner: Beijing 1900, Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, Angelo Paratico (trans, intro) (Gingko, August 2019)

A translation from Italian of the memoirs of Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, minister of Italy in Beijing from 1898 until 1902. In 1900, Raggi, his wife and child, lived through the 55 days of the Siege of the Legations. This book contains the section of memoirs related to his service in China, just before and after the famous Siege.

Despite the growing tensions between China and the West, one East-West relationship has endured with a continuing mutual fascination: that of Jews and Chinese, one increasingly reflected in literature and film. In particular, the story of the Shanghai Jewish refugees has enjoyed a resurgence over the past decade; Kirsty Manning’s novel, The Song of the Jade Lily, is one of the latest examples.