Daughter of Xanadu – Part 4/4

April 20, 2011


A review (guest post) by Tom Carter of Daughter of Xanadu by
Dori Jones Yang

By story’s conclusion, Messer Polo, who witnessed and wrote about the Mongols’ real-life battle against the Burmese in his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, has elevated “Emmajin the Brave” into the living legend she wanted to be, though she now regrets it.

“These men needed a hero, but I no longer needed to be one.” She resigns her sword and rank, and departs with Polo back to Europe as the Khan’s emissary of peace, leaving the literary door wide open for a sequel.

Dori Jones Yang, who also penned the best-selling Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, is a skilled historian.

In researching Daughter of Xanadu, Yang, fluent in Putonghua, traveled all the way to the ruins of Xanadu in remote Inner Mongolia, which this itinerant backpacker can personally attest is no easy journey.

The short chapters and brief sentences, edited with razor precision for a younger audience, along with a helpful glossary for ESL students, make reading Daughter of Xanadu a breeze, though adults will admittedly want to beg this book back afterwards from their tweens.

Return to Daughter of Xanadu – Part 3 or start with Part 1

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of China: Portrait of a People (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review), a 600-page China photography book, which may be found at Amazon.com.

Discover more “Guest Posts” from Tom Carter with Is Hong Kong Any Place for a Poor American?

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

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Daughter of Xanadu – Part 2/4

April 18, 2011

A review (guest post) by Tom Carter of Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang

The merchants’ young son turns out to be one Marco Polo, the now-legendary Venetian journeyer credited for introducing Asian culture to the west.

To Emmajin, however, he is just another “colored-eye man,” a court curiosity from Christendom whose gallantry and romantic gestures are as ridiculous to the manly Mongolians as his facial hair (“his beard was so thick I could imagine food sticking in it”).

Try as she might, however, Emmajin, caught in the peak of puberty, is unable to resist Marco’s western charm, and quickly finds herself enamored by his worldly vision (“I had learned to see the world through Marco’s eyes”) as well as his pelt.

“What would the hair on his arm feel like?” she often fantasized about at night.

But she was a Mongolian first, and reluctantly sacrifices her blossoming relationship with the foreigner to complete her spy mission (“He was not a friend but a source of information.”).

Continued on April 19, 2011 in Daughter of Xanadu – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of China: Portrait of a People (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review), a 600-page China photography book, which may be found at Amazon.com.

Discover more “Guest Posts” from Tom Carter with Is Hong Kong Any Place for a Poor American?

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


Daughter of Xanadu – Part 1/4

April 17, 2011


A review (guest post) by Tom Carter of Daughter of Xanadu by
Dori Jones Yang

Who would win in a fight: Mulan or Emmajin Beki or Teenage Angst, Mongolian-style? “Can you imagine, a mere girl fighting on the battlefield?”

The role of females in combat is a debate as timeless as war itself, and one that remains divisive and unresolved to this century.

While present-day arguments for and against allowing women in the military revolve around psychological and biological issues, back in olden times, one needed only cite “tradition” and “familial roles” to silence  the detractors.

The teenaged heroine of Dori Jones Yang’s new 13th-century historical fiction novel, Daughter of Xanadu, is one such detractor, albeit immutable.

 

Often imagining herself on the battlefield, “the son my father never had,” Emmajin Beki, the granddaughter of Mongolian king (and emperor of China’s Yuan Dynasty) Khubilai Khan (1215-1294), learned to ride a horse before she could walk and can outshoot all her cousins in archery.

 

She confidently and outspokenly aspires to emulate her female ancestors who assisted Chinggis Khan in conquering Asia (“the blood of all these earlier strong women flowed in my veins”).

Unfortunately, for this princess, “the days of strong women had ended once luxurious court life had begun.”

The Mongols, fattened, lazy and resting on their laurels, now prefer to tell stories of battles-past over lavish “orgies of excess” rather than engage in new wars, much to Emmajin’s restless discontent.

When she makes known her desire to “become a legend” like real-life women warriors Aiyurug Khutulun and Hua Mulan of China, the great Khan placates her by sending her on a secret mission to spy on a family of foreign merchants currently visiting the Mongol court.

Continued on April 18, 2011 in Daughter of Xanadu – Part 2

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of China: Portrait of a People (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review), a 600-page China photography book, which may be found at Amazon.com.

Discover more “Guest Posts” from Tom Carter with Is Hong Kong Any Place for a Poor American?

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.