|A giraffe brought from Somalia in the twelfth year of Yongle (1414)/(wikimedia)|
Rich and poor.
Giant and small.
Upstairs the foreigners, downstairs the Chinese.
The foreigners shine like gold and diamonds.
And we Chinese are dull like bamboo and clay.
Why the difference?
In my book, Trixi Pudong and the Greater World, Edwin Kuo is an 8-year-old boy in Shanghai, 1938, a city colonized by virtually every country in the West: England, France, the United States, Russia, Germany, Italy, and Holland, for starters. Edwin asks himself the question "Why the difference?" between the poverty-stricken Chinese and the wealthy foreigners from the world outside China's borders. He continues to search for the answer throughout the book as he sails through World War II with the British Merchant Navy, and later works as a ship's captain in Communist China.
I don't know at what point in time I decided to integrate the question of "Why the difference?" into my book. I think it began with the idea of making Edwin a very precocious little boy, despite having miserable grades at school. At my release event in Berlin on August 6, I was unexpectedly grateful that I had added this dimension into my book because there were academics and journalists in my audience who were particularly intrigued by this question. They spoke to me about it after my reading, and it was pleasant surprised for me as a first-time author.
And of course, I'm just fascinated in subjects like: Why did the West rise to power starting in the 19th century, even though humanity's greatest inventions had come out of Asia and the Middle East until then?
Specifically, how did China, a country that led the world's civilizations for thousands of years, become so poor?
Continue reading at Stephanie Faris' blog.