‘Forbidden City’ by Vanessa Hua: Beauty in the Brokenness

by Pia Chatterjee

It is an age-old tale: a young woman escapes the constraints of her provincial life to make her way to the big city, only to fall victim there to the machinations of an older, powerful man. But Vanessa Hua’s Forbidden City (353 pages; Ballantine Books), set in China just before the dawn of Mao’s Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, takes this trope and cunningly turns it on its head, making for one of the most compelling works of feminist and historical fiction in recent years. Unlike stereotypical ingenues, teenage Mei is morally ambiguous and neither beautiful nor beloved. She connives her way […]

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The Third Daughter

by Vanessa Hua

The Chairman is dead. Outside, the people of Chinatown are cheering. They light firecrackers and beat pots and pans, chanting as they march three floors below the window of my apartment. Their signs say, “Smash the Emperor!” Drips of paint spoil the sweep and curve of the calligraphy, the characters bleeding as if shot. Shouts

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