By Qiu Xiaolong
St. Martin’s Press, 228 pages, $14.99

One Street and Five Decades

Take an armchair vacation to China with the international bestselling book Years of Red Dust: Stories of Shanghai, by Qiu Xiaolong. The narrative starts off on Red Dust Lane, 1949. The reader assumes the role of a new college student not yet familiar with Shanghai. The area’s landlord shows you around, telling stories of the tenants and the history of the street. Read the Red Dust Lane Blackboard Newsletter propped up against a wall. Written at the end of each year, it records China’s biggest news stories. The book tells the story of China, beginning with the Communist Revolution to the Modernization movement of the late 1990s. You’ll hear the voices, songs, and poetry of the street’s residents. Each chapter’s story is linked because they are all from the perspective of one small street, Red Dust Lane. Xiaolong storytelling is filled with rich details. Readers will hear the sounds and visualize the sights and bear witness to China’s political, cultural and social change over the last half-century. Xiaolong touches on the Chinese Civil War, the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s life and death, the riots in Tiananmen Square and other crucial events of modern Chinese history.

Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin