In the near future I’m hoping to expand the number of guest posts and book review/suggestions on this blog to try to help you find more China related content. My reason for this is that China is a huge country, and so we need more voices to get all of the stories.
This weekend I received a short story called “Six-Peace Restaurant”, which was written by Yaxue Cao (available digitally on Amazon for just $2.99). The 7,000 word story first appeared in “Boulevard” magazine in 2007, but it still feels very current.
The story focuses on a young Chinese woman returning to Beijing after living in the US for 6 years. The questions people ask her are ones I have heard dozens of times since moving to China. Questions like, “Isn’t life more comfortable in the US?” are hard to answer without hours of explanation and, the main character struggles with how to answer simply without lying.
Yaxue also plays with some of the quirky bits of every day life in China, like that the owner of Six-Peace restaurant has a poster of Marilyn Monroe in his kitchen, or that idea’s like “social ethics” are can be boiled down to picking up litter and not spitting.
The real meat of the story though is the way it explores tensions and problems laying just behind the veneer of the happy Chinese life in Beijing that most foreigners never see on their short trips to China. At one point the main character see a migrant worker get sworn off the mini-bus for sitting in the wrong seat. This kind of contempt held for farmers is widespread in China, but is not something openly discussed. I’m confident that my co-workers would even deny that it could happen.
I think this story accomplishes a lot in under 20 pages. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and was left wanting her to continue the character’s tale. Yaxue Cao has a great voice and engaging style.
If you have any questions for the author, she will be personally replying to your questions about the story below.