Enter the world of Bronze and Sunflower: a small village in Mainland China during the Cultural Revolution. The villagers of Damaidi live close to the land as subsistence farmers. Bronze is mute after an early trauma; Sunflower is the daughter of one of the artists sent to a nearby work camp who died suddenly, leaving her an orphan. They form an incredible bond tried by poverty, adversity and famine. Beautiful lyrical text (translated from the Chinese by Helen Wang) gives readers a true glimpse into life half a world away and 50 years ago. Bronze and Sunflower feels a bit like Little House in the Big Woods, going deeply into the business of farming, hunting, and attending school but in 1970’s China. Cao Wenxuan (last name is Cao) is a professor of Chinese literature at Peking University and one of China’s most beloved children’s authors. He is the recipient of the 2016 International Hans Christian Anderson Award. We are so lucky that Ms. Wang and Candlewick Press made it possible for Americans to enjoy it too. Unforgettable. Read it to someone you love.
If one knows anything for certain about writer Wendell Berry, it is that he is a man of ideals and deeply held convictions. Throughout his long career spanning countless novels, short stories, poems, and essays Berry has written extensively about what he believes constitutes a life worth living. Key among Berry’s beliefs is the idea that life and land are interconnected and integral to happiness and well-being. The author, who is also a longtime farmer, is well known for his beliefs in the benefits (ecological, economic, spiritual) of an agrarian way of life, and has long argued that a return to a more agrarian-based culture is necessary for the health of our society. He is extraordinarily cautious, even wary, of much of modern technology and the threats it poses to humanity in terms of industrialization and environmental destruction. So it should come as little surprise to any thinking or reasoning person that Mr. Berry was a bit heated upon finding that the University of Kentucky (Berry’s alma mater and recipient of his enormous collection of personal archives) had decided to name its new athletic dorm the Wildcat Coal Lodge in a nod to the school’s coal industry donors. Continue reading “Wendell Berry Burned Up By Coal”