Yuwa is a novel originally published in Chinese in 2019. Set in a dirt-poor area of Gansu Province in China’s far west, it features a boy who rises above his marginal existence in a village bypassed by economic growth. Yuwa (rain child) leads a simple life surrounded by an extended family, love, and friendship. He tends sheep with his grand-uncle, who teaches him about life; he goes to school with his best friend, whose loyalty never wavers; he has an aunt who dotes on him and a mother who worries about him. The novel builds in intensity and emotion after Yuwa experiences heartbreak after heartbreak. While symbolizing the challenges facing the villagers, the story illustrates how a child’s indomitable nature and inherent decency help him endure despite the forces of nature, tradition, and cruelty arrayed against him. It is difficult to read Yuwa without taking note of its symbolic resonance and message of hope.
Chen Yixin is young writer who was born and grew up in a village similar to Yuwa’s. Chen’s childhood experience has given him a unique perspective on contemporary life in impoverished parts of China that seldom emerge from the shadows. With plain language and compassion, Chen has created a truly memorable character in an undersized child who survives against all odds. Howard Goldblatt is the translator of numerous works of Chinese fiction, including Xiao Hong, Su Tong, and Nobel Laureate Mo Yan.