English by Wang Gang, translated by Martin Merz and Jane Weizhen Pan [in Bloomsbury Review]
At 12, Love Liu lives with his architect parents in the village of Ürümchi in the Xinjiang region of northeast China. Growing up during the Cultural Revolution means he is surrounded by discontent and fear – his parents, his friends, their parents must always be diligently wary of what they say, what they do, even what they think.
When Second Prize Wang arrives with his big city Shanghai ways to teach English, he brings with him glimpses of another world. For Love Liu, the teacher’s English dictionary with its cover of navy blue – a color not often seen under Mao’s iron control – becomes a symbol of infinite new possibilities.
Because the teacher truly cares about his students’ learning, he quickly becomes morally suspect. Love Lui, however, will not let the detractors – including his own parents – keep him from developing a close relationship with the keeper of that prized English dictionary. A heart-wrenching coming-of-age story during one of the most tumultuous periods of modern history.