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A Journey from Mao’s China to San Francisco’s Chinatown in Vanessa Hua’s ‘Forbidden City’

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Vanessa Hua (Andria Lo)

Novelist and journalist Vanessa Hua’s new book “Forbidden City” is a historical fiction set in 1960s China. It’s the story of a 16-year-old girl who was plucked from a rural village to join a troupe of dancers formed to satisfy an aging Chairman Mao’s – historically accurate – love of ballroom dance and teenage girls. Hua writes in the author’s notes, “I believe that fiction flourishes where the official record ends”; the novel leaves the impression that even if the woman at the center of the book were real, she would have been erased from history. We’ll talk about the dynamics of gender, power and manipulation that resonate across time and geography. “The past,” Hua writes, “is never as distant as it seems.”

Guests:

Vanessa Hua, author, "Forbidden City" and “A River of Stars”; columnist, San Francisco Chronicle

May-Lee Chai, associate professor in the department of creative writing, San Francisco State University; author, "Useful Phrases for Immigrants"

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