Sometimes we all get tired of hearing thenews from the real world—trade wars, political machinations, and slowingeconomies. So, it is great to getimmersed in a good long story.
Great stories are not escapism — not arejection of the world. Actually, theygive us a much deeper understanding of humanity than we can get from justlooking at daily events. I find thatstories written for children or teenagers are often the best.
So, in the past month or so I have turnedto three authors who I can highly recommend.
I stayed up late too many nights readingthe six novels in K.B. Hoyle's Gateway Chroniclesseries. Very ambitiously, the stories are a homage toand retelling of C.S. Lewis' classicChronicles of Narniaseries. Hard as it is to believe, Hoyle's versionsurpasses the original in many ways.
The author, who lives in Birmingham,Alabama, is the mother of four sons, so she has a bit more realistic view ofchildhood growth than did Lewis, who was childless and who married only late inlife. In the Gateway Chronicles,Darcy, a 13-year-old girl who is pressed by her parents to go to a summer campin the woods of northern Michigan, discovers a portal to another world.
Over the course of repeated visits to thisalternative world, the strength of character of Darcy and her companions aretested in magical, but relatable and meaningful, ways. I especially liked Hoyle's realistic andworldly but spiritual view of the meaning of good and evil.
These books are a great read foradults. More importantly, any parent ofteenagers should be pushing them to put away the video games and discovery K.B.Hoyle's deep and engaging tales.
I was also engrossed by the novels ofNigerian-American author, Nnedi Okorafor. HerBinti Trilogytells the story of an African teen-age girl inthe distant future who risks everything to leave her traditional upbringing toget a scientific education on a distant planet. Her human traveling companions are killed by an alien attacker on the wayto the university, so she at first looks for revenge. But only comes to understand herself and theuniverse when she can see the situation from the point of view of thealiens.
Okorafor is also the author ofLagoon,ascience fiction novel set in present day Lagos, Nigeria. Aliens choose to land in Africa, rather thanin the usual US or UK. This novel givesa vivid and, I think, realistic view of life in Nigeria—a much better view thanyou can get from reading factual treatises.
About a year ago, I had a chance to go toUganda and Ethiopia for reporting trip. I was very lucky to see the positive sides of those countries, ratherthan the problems usually reported in the press. I saw some of million Chinese citizens whoare building businesses in Africa and also saw some of the key infrastructurebeing built as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Okorafor's novels are a great way to beginto understand the potential of the African continent.
Finally, I've enjoyed three novels foryounger children by China Daily's own Randy Wright. They recount the adventures of Wang Kaihao,an eight year old Chinese boy who lives in the US because his father has a jobthere. In the first book, Kai & theKidnappers, Kai rescues the president of the US, who had been kidnapped bysneering conspirators within the government. (Okay, that part took me out of my escapism back to the news.) In later books, he saves the InternationalSpace Station and finds a Ming Dynasty treasure so it can be returned toChina. Published in China, these booksinclude a vocabulary section at the end and should be a great way for kids tolearn English. (I'd like to have somesimple but engaging books like this to help me learn Chinese.)
Finally, one more good thing. The M Woods Art Museum in the Dongchengsection of Beijing has a large exhibition of the paintings of British artistDavid Hockney, loaned by the Tate museum in London. His colorful paintings of the Yorkshirelandscape are inspiring. I'd love tofigure out how to make photos that mimic his work. See it before it closes on January 5.