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Talking to Women’s Book Club

Monday, February 28th, 2011

By Jian Ping

Beverly invited me to talk to her women’s book club at noon today in Downers Grove, a western suburb of Chicago. I readily agreed. I knew the area, close to where I used to live in the western suburb of Chicago.

Beverly advised that her group had been together for many years and some of them were friends since high school. I always enjoyed talking to book clubs—they would have read my book by the time we meet and the questions they raise are always more thought provoking.

The 15 or so of women were already at Beverly’s home by the time I arrived, thanks to the traffic jam on I-55. Beverly greeted me at the door. I felt like I had known her for a long time. She said she was a “planner”. I was certainly impressed by her timely follow up and attention to details ever since she approached me via email—she provided me with detailed driving directions, sent me a list of questions that she’d like to ask, and made a comprehensive list of events that happened to my family and China in chronological order. Even today, to go with the China-themed discussion, she offered Chinese food: eggroll, orange chicken, rice, and of course, fortune cookies.

Our talk started at noon, followed by lunch and our continued discussions on Mulberry Child and China in general. I was planning to leave at 2:30 p.m. but didn’t depart until nearly 4 p.m., making it the longest appearance I had ever had at a book club! Our discussions went from the happenings to my family, mother-daughter relationship, parenting, to the development of China today. I very much appreciated their genuine interest in my story and China, and enjoyed our discussion and interaction.

It is moment like this that makes me realize why I write.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com or www.moraquest.com for more information.

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One Day, Two Events (1)

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

By Jian Ping 

Book Signing at Rotary Club in Deerfield, IL

During a recent Thursday, I gave two talks in two states, a record. The first one was a talk at a Rotary Club over lunch in Deerfield, IL; and the second, at KazooBooks to a book group and the public in Kalamazoo, MI. Despite the rush—I forgot about the one hour time difference between Illinois and Michigan and committed to start the 2nd event at 5:30 P.M. local time. But despite the rush, I enjoyed both events.

Deloris at the Deerfield Rotary Club invited me to speak at her club and introduced me to her fellow Rotarians.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Deloris had read my book before contacting me. She gave a detailed description of my book to the audience, along with her comments—a better job than I could ever do. I proceeded from there, using a few visuals to illustrate the stories covered in my book and the atrocities of China’s Cultural Revolution. Since I just received permission from my film director Susan Morgan Cooper to use photos of the documentary based on my book (production is scheduled to finish in early 2011), I eagerly shared images of three reenacted scenes that had been filmed recently in Los Angeles—images of Nainai, my grandmother, Father and me at six in the mud house we were forced to live in.

After the Q & A and a rushed book signing, I charged to the parking lot in front of our meeting place where my friends Joyce and Hank had been waiting. I was 15 minutes late, making our tight schedule more challenging to meet. “It’s 172 miles,” Joyce had sent me an email the day before, reminding me we need to get on the road no later than 1 P.M.  I threw my bag into the trunk of their car and settled in the back seat as soon as I could.

“Okay, ready to roll,” I said. I was very grateful that they generously offered me a ride from Deerfield to Kalamazoo, Michigan!  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.moraquest.com, www.mulberrychild.com

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A Nice Treat (2)

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

By Jian Ping

Mary and me at Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand last December

Mary drove Karen and me to Suzie’s, a book club member who was hosting the event starting at 10 A.M. The contemporary house was open and bright, with its backyard facing another lake. Many members had arrived, and among them, two brought their adult daughters. I soon learned several of them had visited China and one had an adopted granddaughter from China. Since they had already read my book Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, I proceeded to show them some images of the Cultural Revolution and invited them to ask questions at any time. We had a lively discussion. Eventually, Karen had to cut in and reminded everyone that it was a quarter to noon and we needed to wrap up. I signed copies of Mulberry Child for the members and continued to chat with a few until Karen and Mary urged me to leave—we planned to grab a few sandwiches on our way back and have lunch over the lake. We didn’t have much time left since I wanted to take the 3 P.M. Amtrak train back to Chicago.

I was impressed that Karen, at 80, walked down the slope to the boat with us without any difficulties. Mary skillfully steered the boat out of the docking area and cruised at leisure around the lake. A young man was waterskiing in the middle of the lake, gracefully jumping and turning at high speed, and another man was riding a jet ski, leaving waves of splashes behind him. Other than that, no one else was on the water.

“School is still off,” Mary said. “I’m surprised not many people are out on the lake.”

I was glad the lake was not crowded with people and boats. The sun was shining, yet on the water, it felt cool. A gentle breeze created small ripples on the surface of the water, making it sparkle as if beckoning to us. It dawned on me why so many people preferred to have a second home in the country. The beauty of nature and the peace of the surroundings were so soothing and serene.

What a wonderful treat I had—receiving the warm hospitality from Mary’s parents, indulging in the friendship of my friend, and making connections with my readers! 

Thank you! Thank you all!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry China: A Memoir of China. Visit www.moraquest.com, www.mulberrychild.com.

Women’s Book Club in Naperville

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Naperville's Riverwalk

By Jian Ping

I’ve been to several special interest groups and women’s book clubs in the greater Chicago area recently. Each group has its unique characteristics, with women at different ages and backgrounds which play a key role in the questions they raise about my book or China in general. When I met with a group of 20+ women from Pan Pacific Southeast Asia Women’s Association (Chicago chapter) at my friend Jerilyn’s home, I was very impressed to see two elder women in their late 80s and early 90s among the audience.

The women’s book club I went to yesterday was in Naperville, a western suburb of Chicago where I used to live for a decade. Cynthia, the hostess of the club for the month, reached me via my book website at www.mulberrychild.com and asked if it would be possible for me to join them in their discussion about Mulberry Child. I readily agreed—I had always enjoyed direct contacts with my readers. I fought the rush hour traffic from Chicago to the suburb and was pleased to make it to Cynthia’s home by 7 P. M., right on time. I was very touched by Cynthia’s hospitality. I learned that the club usually meet once a month over snacks at members’ homes. But in honor of a book about China and my appearance in person, Cynthia followed a recipe of northeastern Chinese cuisine that she clipped from the New York Times and cooked a full meal. Stir-fried lamb with green onion, eggplant with potato and green pepper, cucumber and cilantro salad and rice, completed with a Chinese cake and fruit jello she bought from an Asian bakery. I couldn’t have cooked such a large, authentic Chinese dinner myself! On top of that, she bought Tsingtao Beer imported from China to accompany the meal!

Twelve of the book club members, a guest brought by a member, and I relished the delicious food and enjoyed a lively discussion for more than three hours!

I received a lovely thank you note from Cynthia today, saying I was the first author to meet with the group over their 15-year history and how appreciative they all were for my time with them. I wanted to say to her and each of the members at the club, the pleasure and appreciation are all be mine. I was honored and delighted to have met and talked with each of them. In fact the atmosphere was so lovely that I felt like I had known them for a long time as friends. Cynthia, Marcia, Linda, Jill, Barb, Chris, Marita, Margaret, Cindy, Marlene, and Joan, my heartfelt thanks to you all for your interest in my story and in China.   

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com

At Todt Hill Library in Staten Island, NY

Sunday, March 1st, 2009
Passengers from the Staten Island Ferry emerge...
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Despite having lived in NYC for five years in the early ‘90s, I have never been to Staten Island before. A book event on Mulberry Child at the Todt Hill Library was the second talk I had during this trip to the east coast. The drizzle during the day prevented me from going to the island early to explore the place.

I wish I didn’t change my mind—by the time I emerged out the R train station and found my way to the South Ferry, I missed the 3 PM ferry by 4 minutes. The next one wouldn’t depart until 3:30 PM. I was told the ferry took about 20 minutes to reach the island. I became anxious, realizing I might be late for the 4 PM event. I called Kelly, the adult service librarian at Todt Hill and crossed my fingers that the library was not far from the port.

I was surprised the ferry ride between Manhattan and Staten Island was free and surprised again at the enormous size of the ferry boat, which, I later learned, could carry over 4,000 people each trip. I rushed off the boat the moment it docked and took a few minutes to find Kelly who came to pick me up. As luck might have it, Todt Hill is quite far away from the port and we headed right into the traffic. By the time we walked into the meeting room, I was half an hour late! I was touched that a dozen people patiently waited.

As I apologized profusely, one elder woman blurted out: “You must be taking a slow boat from China!”

I launched right into the talk and opened the floor for questions as I went along. We soon got into heated discussions, from my family’s experiences during the Cultural Revolution to the current economic development; from women’s foot binding to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games…. Kelly stayed with us and graciously kept the library open for an extra 45 minutes to accommodate us. By the time we finished, several women came to the front and continued our conversation.

“They were really interested in your talk and fully engaged in the discussion,” Kelly said as she drove me back to the ferry. She said she’d pass the information on my book to a librarian who works with reading groups at Todt Hill. I promised if I’d have the chance to return and talk to a reading group, I’d arrive an hour ahead of schedule.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. www.mulberrychild.com

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