In 1934, tens of thousands of Communist guerillas fled Jiangxi, in an extended retreat through hazardous terrain to Shaanxi in the north, while under fire from their Nationalist enemies. The Long March, as it became to be known, helped build the legend of the Chinese Communist Party, and of its leader Mao. While on the Long March, Mao had a daughter, who was left behind to live with a local family due to the trek’s dangers. That event inspired Michael X Wang’s debut novel Lost in the Long March, about one couple who faced a similar decision—whether to leave their child behind—and that decision’s repercussions decades later.
In this interview, Michael and I talk about the Long March, what makes it a great setting for a novel, and how its story aligns with many other family stories from modern China.
Michael X Wang was born in Fenyang, a small coal-mining city in China’s mountainous Shanxi province. His short story collection, Further News of Defeat (Autumn House Press), won the 2021 PEN/Robert W Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection and was a finalist for the 2021 CLMP Firecracker Award for Fiction. Michael’s work has appeared in the New England Review, Greensboro Review, Day One and Juked, among others. He is currently an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Arkansas Tech University and lives in Russellville, Arkansas.