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Book details
  • Genre:FICTION
  • SubGenre:Historical / General
  • Language:English
  • Pages:414
  • Paperback ISBN:9781543942361

The River Dragon's Daughters

Four Women of the Yangtze in Interesting Times

by Sebastian Gerard

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The lives of four Chinese women span the near century from the Republic to the present day—China's most "interesting," turbulent time—of war, civil revolution, famine, cultural self-destruction, environmental challenge and ideological and social transformation. Their story begins with a foiled incident of female infanticide in a cove along the Yangtze and follows a matrilineal line of women set against the fall of the Republic, the warlord period, the Nanking Massacre, WWII and the civil war, the Cultural Revolution, and the emergence of post-Maoist China. Central to this historical novel is the role of the Yangtze River, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam and the world's largest lake reservoir. Embedded in the narrative are three love stories, triumph, tragedy, murder, and political intrigue that takes place from Beijing to Hong Kong and Chongqing to San Francisco. Ultimately the saga of these women of the Yangtze is also a testament to the courage and resilience of Chinese women who, it is said, "hold up half the sky," and of four of whom it can be said are Daughters of the River Dragon.
This is a work of historical fiction that has gestated over the years that I have made trips to China and Hong Kong where I have met many people and formed a few friendships that have inspired me to write this story. But its genesis owes to four non-fictional Chinese females. Two are little girls; one I will never know, and one who I have come to know since I began making notes. The first girl, only a baby, I saw only for a few brief moments as her body was whisked by my Yangtze cruise ship in the rapid sepia current one day many years ago. Then she was gone, forever. The second girl I saw for the first time a few years later in a hotel in Guangzhou, in the arms of my niece, Betsy, her adoptive mother, a couple of days after she had been received from an orphanage in Fushan. Waifish Xiao Fu, as I like to call her (she was Fu Lin-si, probably given the surname based on the city in which she was found) was a baby who escaped being "washed" (as the drowning euphemism has it), exposed, or smothered in ashes, as many of her Chinese sisters, unwanted victims of poverty, superstition, or national demographic policy, have been victimized. She was getting a ma, in the person of my lovely and loving niece, who was getting a long-awaited nü'ér, and a new life in a new land, with a new name of Caralena. This child of hope was not much older than her sister unmercifully sent by despair into a Yangtze grave. I felt for some time the desire to find a way to connect Little Fu to a narrative fate that she escaped, and to a history and culture that, in this manner at least, she might find context. I do not know the names of the other two Chinese women who form part of the inspiration for this story. I stumbled upon them as I was exploring villages along the slopes on the north side of the Yangtze when a red line was being painted to indicate the highwater level that would be created by the Three Gorges Dam. They were preparing vegetables on the porch of a very modest house: an elderly woman with salt and pepper hair sitting on a low stool washing some greens, and a pretty girl of late teens or early twenties in a blue dress, on a chair and preparing some string peas. I stopped to watch what I took to be a grandmother/granddaughter tableau, and then pointed to my camera and asked if I could photograph them. They nodded affirmatively and they have graced the wall of my home since and sourced my imagination for one of the later chapters in this book. I am indebted to these women and girls and especially to my courageous niece for inspiring this story. My daughters of the river dragon, who are completely fictional creations, draw upon their beauty, courage, spirit, resilience, and even of tragedy. The other element of this story is China in perhaps its most turbulent century. The story begins in 1922,near the ending of the republic that lasted only a few years after the fall of the Qin dynasty Just a decade before.There had been talk add governmental levels during this time about the need for a damn on the Yangtze River. The main concern at that time may well have been the ravages of flooding that wiped out towns and villages and cost many lives, But also delivered fertility to the soil through siltation. The river dragon of the Yangtze was a fickle ruler of its waters.The damn was finally built In the early 21st-century, a hydroelectric and flood control construction that is the largest of its kind in the world and which also created an enormous body of water behind it that necessitated the relocation of millions of people and the loss of many ancient villages and other important archaeological sites. So the Yangtze itself and its Three Gorges Dam are also a central character In this story as told through the interactions of its Dragon and his daughters.
About the author
James A. Clapp (Sebastian Gerard) For more detailed information consult urbismedia-ltd.com also access to Dragon City Journal James A. Clapp is Emeritus Professor of City Planning and Urban Affairs at San Diego State University, where he formerly directed the Master of City Planning Program and was Chairman of the School of Public Administration and Urban Studies. He received his Ph.D. in Metropolitan Studies from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University in 1968 and practiced for several years as a public urban planner and planning consultant. He is author of over 100 articles, book chapters, reviews, and technical reports on cities and city planning, and his book, New Towns and Urban Policy (Dunellen, 1971) was the main selection of the Library of Urban Affairs Book Club in 1971. His book, The City: A Dictionary of Quotable Thoughts On Cities And Urban Life (Rutgers, 1984) in print for over a decade, has been expanded and translated into Chinese for publication by the Chinese Architectural and Engineering Press in 2010 and was re-issued in a revised and expanded edition in 2014 by Transaction Publishers. His book (with M. Stofflet), California Cityscapes (Universe Books, 1991) deals with the portrayal of the city in art. A book of his aphorisms, Lifelines, writing as Sebastian Gerard, was published in May 2004, and This Urban Life: Writing About Cities for Multiple Media was published in 2005. The Stranger is Me: Travels and Self-Discoveries, a travel memoir, was published in Spring 2007. The American City in the Cinema was published by Transaction Publishers in 2013. His first full-length work of fiction, For Goodness Sake, A Novel of the Afterlife of Suzie Wong, written as Sebastian Gerard, was published in Hong Kong in 2008 and he has scripted the story for production as a feature motion picture. In 2014 it was published in French by GOPE in France under the title A la Poursuite de Suzie Wong. In Spring 2015 his memoir Mon Cahier de Paris: Café Writings 1989 and 1999 was published as well as his second novel, as Sebastian Gerard, Stumbling Blocks & Stepping Stones. His collection writings on Italy and his travels there over the years, Vademecum Italica, was released in 1916, and The Babo Gospels: Essays and Parables on Faith and Reason in 1918. He recently completed The River Dragon's Daughters, a novel of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. His completed non-fiction book, The Art of Urbanism: Cities and Urban Life in the History of Painting, is under publisher review. For a complete list and samples of his writing projects consult the publications link in his website. In the year 2000 he was the Fulbright Scholar at Lingnan University and the School of Creative Media at City University, in Hong Kong. He was also Director of the Program for Media and Urban Affairs. As Producer/Writer/Commentator for San Diego Public Radio KPBS-FM from 1987 to 1992, he wrote and/or produced over 100 essays, interviews and documentaries, and created, wrote and hosted its public affairs program, Metropolitan Journal. He is also a freelance magazine and newspaper writer on travel and urban affairs topics, and was the 1991 recipient of the California Chapter of the American Planning Association Journalism Award for his series of articles for the San Diego Union. In 2003 he launched his website, Dragon City Journal, on which he has published over 700 essays and graphics on urbanism, media, travel and other subjects. He founded UrbisMedia Ltd. (chartered in Hong Kong in 2010) upon his retirement from SDSU in 2005 to work collaboratively on projects in media from print and broadcast journalism, publishing, documentary, graphics and film. He has two daughters, Laura and Lisa, both graduates of the University of California, by his late wife, artist and professor of art and design, Patricia Lynch Clapp.