This is my first book review of 2015. I started this book in 2014, but with all the frivolity of the holidays, and being involved with the opening of the new main Library here in Norfolk, Va., I just couldn’t get much reading done. Make sure to check out the link to the Deadbolt-Hobo Babylon album on youtube, Embrace the Voodoobilly. Enjoy.
Beijing Bastard: Into the Wilds of a Changing China
by Val Wang
Gotham (2014), Hardcover, 352 pg
This is a memoir by a young American woman of Chinese descent; Val Wang takes us through her journey to her Parent’s China, complete with excellent descriptions of her family, the architecture, her friends and co-workers, as well as some vivid illustrations of the political climate. Val basically decides that the best way for her to escape her immediate family’s iron grip on her life would be to move to China, the country her family fought so hard to escape decades earlier, relocating to America to give their kids a better life.
Val wants to make a documentary film, and lucks out by becoming friends with directors, film makers, and various artistic types, who are totally bizarre in some instances. Between the black teeth due to pollution, the brushes with police that she encounters all too frequently, and the shady landlords, she paints a picture of Mainland China that may be quite different from what you might have envisioned it to be. The author introduces us to the Chinese underground art scene, as well as the nightlife, aspects of China that I was not aware of. The years long interview process of a prominent Peking Opera family is the heart of the story- Wang’s description of each member of this quirky family left a photographic image in my head that afforded me the illusion of actually being in the same room. She comes away with something much different than what she was looking for, but learning some valuable lessons about life, and the creative process.
The gist of the memoir however, speaks more about Val’s relationship with her family, and her finally understanding her parents point of view. This is at heart, a coming of age story- one that also offers the reader an inside look at the similarities between people, families and the distinct life-force of a major city, in this case Beijing. The title of the book references a Chinese Movie that Val was enamored with titled Beijing Bastard. Ironically, once she watched it again, after many years, she realizes that it was actually a crappy film, and that perhaps she should rethink her motivations. In my opinion, this was an entertaining read, I learned much about modern Chinese city life, and just how alike we all are. This last point is also a large part of the story- she realizes that she left a life of being the outcast in America, surrounded by freaks and goofballs, to pretty much be an outcast in China, surrounded by freaks and goofballs.
Beijing Bastard was an easy to follow read, peppered with all manner of weird and wonderful characters. Val Wang puts together an entertaining story, a story of her escape from home, to make her own way in a faraway place. It took guts to do what she did, and to get a book out of it is one way to make it a worthwhile voyage. It had some adult situations that were actually quite awkward, which only added to the appeal in my view. It is not a novel, so the few issues with style and rhetoric should be ignored, as this is a true story, and should be accepted as it is offered. In addition to the entertainment factor, it is also an excellent education on how people in Beijing live, work and play, something that really appealed to me. Highly recommended.
(out of 5)
Deadbolt- Hobo Babylon
I have been listening to Deadbolt for many years. I never understood why so many supposedly cool music listening people never heard of them. Guess that makes me super cool. Anyway, these guys throw down some sweet Voodoo-billy, with funny stories and slick guitar lines. Hobo Babylon is my favorite album, basically because my favorite Deadbolt song is on this album, titled One Day I Will Kill You. Check out the Youtube Vid, and buy the album if you like them.