The renowned Chinese writer Yang Jiang passed away on Wednesday, May 25 in Beijing at age 104. In 1984, University of Washington Press published her account of life during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Six Chapters from My Life ‘Downunder’ (Ganxiao liuji), translated by Howard Goldblatt, who is known for his translations of works by major Chinese novelists, including Nobel Prize-winner Mo Yan. Yang’s New York Times obituary notes that “Goldblatt called [Six Chapters] ‘deeply personal and broadly representative of the “mundane” lives of intellectuals during that time’ — in contrast . . . to the tales of violence and victimization often found in other Cultural Revolution-era memoirs.”
The book brought literary fame to Yang, who was 70 when it was published in Chinese. Judith Shapiro reviewed Goldblatt’s translation of the memoir in the New York Times Book Review:
In richness, moral urgency, and drama, there can be few events of history with greater literary potential than the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Yang Jiang’s “Six Chapters from My Life ‘Downunder,’ ” her slender account of being sent ‘down’ for two years to a re-education school in the countryside, is one of the few memoirs of the period and all the more precious for that. . . . The book was published in China, if only briefly, because Yang Jiang focused on mundane activities. But her avoidance of obviously sensitive subjects in no way diminishes the work’s impact as a commentary on the Cultural Revolution. Many of her major themes have an allegorical quality, and many of her gently stated ironies are powerful indictments of Cultural Revolution policies. . . . In a brilliant inversion of the political lessons of the day, she finds that through collective labor directed by arrogant supervisors, toadies and politically correct spies, “I grew closer to grasping the meaning of ‘class sympathies.’ ”. . . . Yang Jiang’s is a memoir marked by the dignity, absence of recrimination, deep love of country and fatalism typical of her generation.
University of Washington Press also published Goldblatt’s translation of Market Street by Xiao Hong. Goldblatt remarked to us on the pairing of Six Chapters and Market Street: “Of interest to me is that both were written by women born in the same year (1911, the year of the revolution that brought down the monarchy). One, Xiao Hong, died at 30; the other, Yang Jiang, lived to be 104! Both wrote powerful memoirs with neither bombast nor rancor.”
AAS’s members are academics and other professionals whose work involves East, South, Northeast, and Southeast Asia, and whose expertise spans across disciplines—history, anthropology, and literary studies, to name just a few. At the hundreds of themed panels scattered across several days, they will give oral presentations on their current research. Our acquisitions editors scan the program to identify topics that could be developed into books, and arrange in advance to meet with potential new authors and to follow up with authors whose manuscripts already are in development. A popular feature of the conference is the exhibit hall, in which dozens of book publishers introduce new titles published in the last year, as well as feature backlist highlights.
In addition to lining up the usual dozens of meetings with authors, other scholars, and publishing partners, this year our Seattle-based staff will have the opportunity to meet the many University of Washington Press authors attending the meeting. Come see us at booth 310-312! We will also celebrate several recent prize winners: Continue reading →
The late Billy Frank Jr. was named one of seventeen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The awards were presented at the White House on November 24. UW Press has published biographies on Frank’s life and work including Where the Salmon Run by Trova Heffernan with the Washington State Heritage Center Legacy Project and Messages from Frank’s Landing by Charles Wilkinson.
Reviews and Interviews
Alaska’s Skyboys author Katherine Ringsmuth answered questions about aviation history and Alaska-related topics in a reddit Ask Historians Ask Me Anything (AMA), r/AskHistorians: “My theory is that the Skyboy images (as well as Alaska’s Last Frontier image) was cemented during the Great Depression. At this time the American public worried about the future—they clung to the nostalgia of the past—often the period that defined American greatness—the movement West.”