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Fortunate Sons: The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilizationby Liel Leibovits and Matthew Miller
Synopses & Reviews
At the twilight of the nineteenth century, China sent a detachment of boys to America in order to learn the ways of the West, modernize the antiquated empire, and defend it from foreigners invading its shores. After spending a decade in New England's finest schools, the boys returned home, driven by a pioneering spirit of progress and reform. Their lives in America influenced not only their thinking but also their nation’s endeavor to become a contemporary world power, an endeavor that resonates powerfully today.
Drawing on diaries, letters, and other first-person accounts, Fortunate Sons tells a remarkable tale, weaving together the dramas of personal lives with the momentous thrust of a nation reborn. Shedding light on a crucial yet largely unknown period in China’s history, Fortunate Sons provides insight into the issues concerning that nation today, from its struggle toward economic supremacy to its fraught relationship with the United States.
"With its surging storyline, extraordinary events, and depth of character, this gripping tale of 120 Chinese boys sent to America — and scattered about New England — in 1872 reads more like a novel than an obscure slice of history. Leibovitz and Miller chronicle an unknown yet transformative period in the relationship between an arcane East and a progressive West. Slivers from diaries and correspondence record encounters the boys enjoyed with President Grant, life in the same New England community Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe called home, and China's reluctance to accept the returning over-confident 'Americanized' citizens. Nevertheless, this education, combined with their ambition and bond, translates to a 'Cantonese Clique' that filters into high-profile government positions in China and results in revolutions in industry and international relations. Chaotic regal battles and merciless wars lead to tragedy, but the tenacity and hope on displayed bring slow reform and triumph. Though the boys were well equipped with the tools for progress, ''the problems they faced are the problems still facing China today,'' and their tale stands as a unique, engrossing, and affecting chronicle. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWxyz LLC)
"The story of the West's engagement with China is often told through the voices of colonists, correspondents and fortune-seekers who sailed East a century ago. Fortunate Sons is a captivating look at the reverse journey: a page-turning narrative about Chinese patriots schooled in the United States who returned home to modernize a moribund, imperial society. This book is a reminder that historically, US-China relations are more than political; Liebovitz and Miller have unearthed an important, and all but forgotten, story that resonates today." Michael Meyer, author of The Last Days of Old Beijing
"A fascinating and well-told history of this early educational exchange between China and the United States." Peter Hessler, author of Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory
"The struggle that the boys faced between traditionalism and modernity, exacerbated by an intriguing and sometimes turbulent clash of cultures, is something that resonates clearly to this day." Gavin Menzies, author of 1421: The Year China Discovered America
"A curious, little-known episode of Sino-American history vividly told." Kirkus Reviews
"The authors use a wealth of primary sources to tell the boys' stories, and the result is an outstanding tale of cross-cultural fertilization." Booklist
Book News Annotation:
This interesting history tells the story of 120 Chinese boys sent to the United States in 1872 to learn the secrets of US innovation, economic success and political stability. The work follows the young men as they traveled and studied with the country's elites, eventually returning to China amidst growing American xenophobia, and facing challenges relating the very information they were tasked with acquiring to a calcified and suspicious government at home. The work examines how the experiences of these leaders shaped the course of Chinese modernization at the turn of the twentieth century and the echoes of their experiences through the history of US-China relations to the present. Liebovitz is visiting professor at New York University and Miller is a writer living in New York. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The epic story of the American-educated boys who changed China forever.
About the Author
Liel Leibovitz, the author of Aliya and a freelance journalist, received his MS in journalism and PhD in communications from Columbia University. He lives in New York.
Matthew Miller is completing his MS degree at Columbia's School of Journalism. He lives in New York.
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History and Social Science » Asia » China » Imperial to 1911