Join us for an evening with author of Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and Their Battle for the Future, Ian Johnson, who will be discussing his latest book with NüVoices board member Zhang Lijia.
BOOK TICKETS HERE
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ian Johnson will be introducing us to his newest book Sparks, in conversation with writer and journalist Zhang Lijia.
A documentary filmmaker who spent years uncovering a Mao-era death camp; an independent journalist who gave voice to the millions who suffered through Covid; a magazine publisher who dodges the secret police: these are some of the people who make up Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and their Battle for the Future, a vital account of how some of China’s most important writers, filmmakers, and artists have overcome crackdowns and censorship to challenge the Chinese Communist Party on its most sacred ground – its monopoly on history.
In traditional China, dynasties rewrote history to justify their rule by proving that their predecessors were unworthy of holding power. Marxism gave this a modern gloss, describing history as an unstoppable force heading toward Communism’s triumph. The Chinese Communist Party builds on these ideas to whitewash its misdeeds and justify its rule.
But in recent years, critical thinkers from across the land have begun to challenge this state-led disremembering. Using digital technologies to bypass China’s legendary surveillance state, their samizdat journals, guerilla media posts, and underground films document a pattern of disasters: from past famines and purges to the ethnic clashes and virus outbreaks of the present.
Based on years of research in Xi Jinping’s China, Sparks challenges stereotypes of a China where the state has quashed all free thought, revealing instead a country engaged in one of humanity’s great struggles of memory against forgetting – a battle that will shape the China that emerges in the mid-21st century.
‘A powerful reminder of the ways in which China’s future depends on who controls the past’ – Peter Hessler
Don’t forget to include a copy of Sparks with your ticket. There will be a book signing following the discussion. Join us from 18:00 for a welcome drink!
About Ian Johnson
Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who has spent most of his adult life in China, working as a correspondent for The New York Times, New York Review of Books, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of other books that also focus on the intersection of politics and civil society, including The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, and Wild Grass: Three Stories of Change in Modern China.
About Lijia Zhang
Lijia Zhang is a factory-worker-turned writer, social commentator and public speaker. One of the few Chinese who write regularly in English for international publications, her articles have appeared in The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, Newsweek and The New York Times. She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir “Socialism Is Great!” about her decade-long experience of working at a rocket factory in Nanjing and her debut novel Lotus, on prostitution in contemporary China, was published by Macmillan and was featured by BBC radio’s World Book Club. She is a recipient of the prestigious fellowship on the International Writer’s Program at the University of Iowa. Lijia has lectured at many conferences, institutions and universities around the world, including Asia EU Economic Forum, European Institute for Asian Studies, The University of Sydney, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford and Oxford. She is a regular speaker on the BBC, Channel 4, CNN and NPR. She divides her time between London and Beijing.