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Talking at Tri-City AAUW

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

By Jian Ping

Talking at Tri-city AAUW at St. Charles Country Club

When Diane contacted me to give a talk about my book Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China at the Tri-City American Association of University Women (AAUW) in the western suburb of Chicago, I readily agreed. My grandmother, Nainai, and my mother are two of the most influential role models of my life. And I’m always enthusiastic to share my story with other women.

The branch of the Tri-City, St. Charles, Batavia and Geneva, organized the event at the St. Charles Country Club. By the time I got there for the event scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. last Saturday, most of the registered attendees were already there. Diane and I had communicated via emails many times. When I finally met her in person, I felt as if we had been friends for quite some time.

AAUW members and women from the area getting ready for the talk

We started with an afternoon tea, with a variety of mini sandwiches, pastries, and fruits, with hot chocolate to dip them in. Ten large round tables were set up, with each seating ten women. I chatted with several attendees at the book signing table and was touched to see a couple of families were there with three generations of women.

Christine, President of the branch, gave a wonderful introduction to my book—capturing the essence of the story better than I would. For me, it was a moving moment of connection and resonation.

I shared with the audience images of my family, posters and photos of the Cultural Revolution era, and addressed the questions raised at the end of the session. I was touched by the audience’s interest and engagement and very much enjoyed the experience.  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which is being developed into a feature-length documentary movie by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011. For more information, please visit,

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One Day, Two Events (2)

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Book signing at Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, MI

I met Hank seven years ago at the Graham School, University of Chicago. We were attending the Basic Program—great books of the West. We moved on to take the Asian Classics when the four-year program was finished, and Hank’s wife Joyce joined us in this new program. They have been very supportive to my book since the beginning—coming to my first talk at the Printers Row Book Fair and invited me to talk to their respective “men’s” and “women’s” book groups. Recently, they also introduced me to talk at the “Kitchen Cabinet,” a social club in Barrington.

It was through them I met Sharon, Joyce’s cousin. Sharon attended one of my talks in the Chicago area. Afterward, she invited me to meet with her book group in Kalamazoo, MI and be her house guest. I readily agreed. That Thursday, Hank raced on the highway to “Kazoo” and we arrived at Sharon’s home shortly before 5:30 P.M., the start of the event. We rushed into Sharon’s car and headed toward the Kazoo Books, a local bookstore. Most of the women in the book group were already there when we walked in. We shook hands and sat around a table that was covered with food they had brought—salad, cheese, bread, fruit, pasta, cookies, cakes and various types of drinks. I was impressed that Gloria, owner of the bookstore, designated a room for such events and allowed people to bring in food and drinks.

 I chatted with the group, addressed their questions and listened to their comments. At 6:30, the event was open to public and more people joined us. We changed the setting and I stood in the front and gave a talk about my book and China’s Cultural Revolution, with visuals to help the audience have a better understanding. Many in the audience raised questions, and we had a very lively discussion—this was one of those events that I knew I connected with the audience.

Gloria invited everyone to have a piece of carrot cake at the end of my talk, and I joined her by passing a bag of crispy peanut candies from China. After book signing, a few women lingered to continue our conversation. It was well after 8 P.M. when we returned to Sharon’s house.

I felt most fortunate to have the generous support of friends and the genuine interest from many readers.

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

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Turning Traumatic Experiences into Narrative

Thursday, October 29th, 2009
Chicago Library

Chicago Library

Ellis and I did a joint program yesterday evening at the Harold Washington Library. It was part of the annual Chicago Book Festival program. Our topic was “turning traumatic experiences into narrative.”

Even though the stories of our books—Mulberry Child: a Memoir of China and Bear Any Burden—took place in two continents and one is a memoir of family story and the other, a fiction of family saga and espionage, we found many common grounds in our writing. The traumatic experiences described in our books and their impact, the resilience demonstrated by the main characters, and the family ties and support. I talked about several traumatic incidents in my life, especially during China’s Cultural Revolution and how the strength demonstrated by my grandmother Nainai and my parents helped me survive such experiences.

It is safe to say that every one encounters traumatic experiences in his/her life. Some people are paralyzed by them, some feel victimized, and some are able to triumph over them. We each have our own way of dealing with such experiences. I shared with the audience the process of healing as I wrote down my experiences and encouraged everyone to write about theirs.

Ellis talked about his book Bear Any Burden and the traumatic experiences his family members and friends went through during the WWII. He has drawn many real life incidents in his fiction. He addressed the issue of post trauma stress disorder that soldiers and civilians suffered and the impact of today’s war on us—a war that is being fought in different ways, with enemies dressed in civilian clothes and terrorists in the form of suicide bombers, etc.

We enjoyed an animated discussion with the audience and stayed behind after our talk to continue our conversation with several individuals. Janette Kopacz, Adult Services of the Library, stayed with us till the very end. We had worked with Janette before on several library events in the Chicago area and continued to be impressed by her dedication and timely follow up.

Despite the serious nature of our topic, it turned out to be a very gratifying evening.

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

Talking to a History Class at DePaul University

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
The Student Center on the Lincoln Park Campus ...
Image via Wikipedia

I had lunch with Professor Ling Arenson before talking to her history class at 1:30 PM yesterday. I filled her in on the content of my presentation, and she informed me that her students had covered the contemporary history of China all the way to the 1990s. I agreed to focus my talk on my personal experiences of growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution and conducting a two-way discussion with the students.

I was impressed that nearly all of the 40 students in her class were seated by the time we got to the classroom. I started my talk after a brief introduction by Professor Arenson. I liked the classroom setting—small enough for me to observe closely the students’ reaction and engagement. The focus and attention they demonstrated encouraged me to move on, spontaneously expanding the details of events. I didn’t realize an hour had passed until Professor Arenson reminded me of the time. I was shocked and embarrassed—I had been carried away in my talk and hadn’t even opened the floor for discussion! Only half an hour left for the class. I quickly wrapped up the talk, but delayed the discussion for another ten minutes—I wanted to read a brief excerpt from the book to give the students an example of a real life experience during the chaotic time.

When so many students raised their hands to ask questions, I regretted not having managed my appearance in a different manner—I should have invited them joined me in a discussion format to start with! One after another, I addressed their questions in record speed. Their questions were well-thought and in-depth. There were still many hands raised in the air when 3 o’clock struck. Another class was scheduled to start right away. As I signed a few copies of Mulberry Child for students, Professor Arenson helped put my papers away and disconnect the flash drive that contained the visuals of my presentation. We rushed out of the room as a professor for the next class started writing on the board.

I told Professor Arenson how impressed I was by the students—their interest in China, their engagement in class and their questions. “I’ll sit among them and have the entire session for discussion next year when you teach China history again!” I promised.

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

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Clearing Library Appearance

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Libraries almost invariably contain long aisle...
Image via Wikipedia

The weather was perfect in Chicago today: bright sunshine, warm, and pleasant. I thanked everyone who attended my book event at the Clearing Library branch on the southwest side of Chicago. Janette, who works at the Harold Washington Library and has coordinated all my Chicago library events, appeared in person.  She introduced me to Mary, the Clearing branch manager. Mary’s warm welcoming manner and friendliness made me feel right at home.  

Listening to readers resonating with my family members, especially Nainai, my grandmother, my mother and father, was most gratifying. How I wish Nainai could hear their comments about her caring and strong personality up in heaven. The love and attachment I feel for her today is as strong as they were when I was a child. I’m so pleased many readers feel the same love for her as well.  

I was very impressed by the questions people in the audience raised: from my siblings’ names , the hardships our family members were subjected to, the stoic manner of my mother, to the political situation of the time. Apparently, they had read the book carefully and drilled into issues that required deeper examination of the culture and tradition. Their care, resonation and understanding warmed my heart.

The event lasted for an hour and a half. A few people stayed behind and continued our discussion. By the time I walked out of the library with Janette, it was almost 9 PM.  We started talking about the next event during the Book Festival Month upcoming up. I felt privileged to participate in the programs of the Chicago city libraries.  Reading and cross cultural communication and understanding are very important elements of our lives today.


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

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Bilingual Talk

Sunday, May 17th, 2009
chicago, chinatown
Image by see phar via Flickr

I’ve made many appearances at book groups, schools and libraries since the release of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. But never once did I have the need to address the audience in both English and Chinese. I was surprised when Ms. Chen, the Branch Manager of the Chicago Chinatown Library, asked me if I could give the talk in both English and Chinese. Somehow, it never occurred to me there might be such a need.

I have done much translation work before, both written and oral; however, at such occasions, I was either able to look at the text or take notes before I converted them from one language into the other. Translating my own talk was a totally different experience. I realized that I spoke too long in one language before I caught myself and switched to the other; and when I did so, I was not able to do a “translation”—the spontaneous talk couldn’t be recaptured word for word. Instead, I recreated the talk that covered similar content, but not in the same order or words.

However, I managed to switch from English to Chinese and vice versa. I was quite amused by the process and appreciated the patience of the audience, especially those who were only fluent in one language. When it came to the question and answer session, all the Chinese raised their questions in Chinese, no matter how fluent their English was. I translated the questions into English for the non-Chinese and proceeded to address the question(s) without pause. It was not until the end of the session that I became aware that I addressed most of the questions in English, with only a brief summary in Chinese! I was grateful that no one seemed to mind.

A few Chinese stayed behind after the event and continued our discussion. A Chinese woman who called herself Jane had lived through the Cultural Revolution in China. She urged me to turn the book into a film and let more people know and remember this episode in history. I certainly enjoyed our chat in Chinese.    

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.  Visit

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A Very Special Event

Friday, March 27th, 2009

I used to live in Green Trails in Lisle, a western suburb of Chicago. For more than tbenedictine-university2en years, the moment I pulled the curtains from my second floor bedroom window, I saw the administration building of Benedictine University (BU). I witnessed the demolition of the old building and the emerging of the new library in its place. I went to the Rice Center on campus to vote several times and always felt Benedictine University was part of the local community.


I had the honor to give a talk about Mulberry Child at BU yesterday. I first met Elsie Yuan, Director of China Institute and Dr. William Caroll, President of BU last October. We talked about China and my book. Dr. Caroll surprised me by addressing incidents that I described in my book in detail, and more, he referred to each of my five siblings by name! When we parted that day, Dr. Caroll and his wife Marietta gave me a large, dark green mulberry leaf. I was very touched. To date, that green leaf, despite its faded color, is still pinned to the China map on the wall of my office. I see it numerous times a day—it reminds me of my growing up experiences in China and my friendship with Dr. Caroll and Elsie that has developed since then.


I arrived at BU at 4 PM. Elsie had asked me to come early to have an interview with BU’s “Eye of the Eagle,” an in-circuit student TV network. I did the interview and I was impressed by the student reporter’s questions and skills. Elsie told me there would be an early dinner before my talk. I was overwhelmed walking into the Boardroom with Dr. Caroll: the conference tables, covered with white table cloth, were lined up in a square, and more then twenty plates were set up for dinner. Soon members of the Benedictine University Unity Foundation (BUUF), faculties from College of Business, College of Liberal Arts, China Institute, Community Development and International Programs, all sponsors of the event, came to the room. Several Chinese Fulbright Scholars who are doing graduate studies or teaching at BU also came. Mr. Donald Taylor, Provost, was also present. I was very honored by the extraordinary hospitality. Then I saw Marietta, Dr. Caroll’s wife, walk through the door—another wonderful surprise. 


Dr. Caroll personally gave the welcome and started the evening event, and Nikki, President of BUUF, introduced me to the audience. I enjoyed the opportunity of talking about China, especially the Cultural Revolution and my family’s experience surviving the persecution and chaos. I also read a section of my book to have the audience experience a particular moment with me. I felt I could have heard a pin drop when I related my story. 


What a special event! My heartfelt thanks to Dr. Caroll, Elsie, Nikki and the other students and faculties whose support made the event possible.   


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

Columbia College Story Week

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
Harold Washington Library
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The annual event of Columbia College Story Week started on Sunday, March 15 and will last until March 20. This is my third year attending the event—author interviews, readings, discussion panels with representatives from publishers, magazines, literary agents, mixed with student and faculty readings and performance. It is a well-organized literary feast.


I went to the reading/conversation featuring Francine Prose last night. It was hosted by Donna Seaman, Booklist Associate Editor, at the Harold Washington Library. The Cindy Pritzker Auditorium was packed, and I was mesmerized by the story Francine Prose read.


I have a full day of work scheduled today, including hosting a group of company guests at United Center for a Bulls vs. Boston Celtics game. Not a bad way to spend St. Patrics Day! But I’ve requested a day off on Wednesday, so I can attend most of the events at the Story Week throughout the day. I’m looking forward to it.


Here is the link to the website of the Columbian College Story Week:


Check it out. I assure you it will be time well spent.

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

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