Four Treasures of the Sky: The compelling debut about identity and belonging in the 1880s American West

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Four Treasures of the Sky: The compelling debut about identity and belonging in the 1880s American West

Four Treasures of the Sky: The compelling debut about identity and belonging in the 1880s American West

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But being a man demands more. For the ruse to work, the transformation must take place under the skin, in all the corners of myself that I have not yet even come to understand. What does it mean to be a man? My experiences then told me everything. It was a matter of believing oneself invincible and strong and owed everything.’ This story is a bildungsroman, a 19th-century Chinese girl's journey into adulthood, and her struggle to become the best person she can be at a time when being a girl was a burden in itself. (And still is.) The artist must master the art of releasing the brush, giving it the space and freedom to find itself again.’

Master Wang describes calligraphy as “the monumental task of creating unity between the person you are and the person you could be.” How does Daiyu interpret his words? Why does calligraphy become so important to her? What role does it play in the story? Engrossing…Epic…The resonance and immediacy of these barbarous 19th-century events are testament to Zhang’s storytelling powers, and should stand as a warning to all of us.” ―Jennifer Egan, The New York Times Book Review

BookBrowse Review

Every calligrapher, every artist, starts the same way, he said. They set out to create art. But this intentionality is what makes the art become work rather than art. What you must practice is creating art without a destination or plan in mind, relying only on your discipline and training and good spirit. This is a stage few calligraphers will ever reach. This is what following your heart looks like.’ The protagonists of all the books that I read going forward are at a disadvantage: I will be comparing them to Lin Daiyu and her indelible spirit for years to come."

Zhang’s blend of history and magical realism will appeal to fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer as well as Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement.” — Booklist (starred review)

Book Summary

At the end of this novel, is a very informative and interesting author’s note about how the story is based on a real life unexplained event. I wish that this author’s note was at the beginning of the story instead of the end, so I could better prepare myself for what is to come, which is a story of emotional devastation caused by the real life actions of our own history as Americans. Circumstances that reflect the terrible treatment of Chinese with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banning Chinese immigrants. Heinous acts against Chinese immigrants when white men took the law in their own hands are at the center of this novel. It’s difficult to read about, but so important to get an understanding of what happened . Important to read because it sadly has relevance today as we witness frequently in the news hate crimes against Asian Americans today .

Sweeping…[Zhang] manages to build in delicate moments of beauty…[Daiyu’s] defiant optimism in the face of what the reader knows are impossible dreams…gives her character strength and meaning. And her refusal to give up, even in the face of terrible odds is as inspiring as it is tragic.” In Dream of the Red Chamber, Lin Daiyu dies from a broken heart after her cousin and true love is to marry another woman. Zhang’s protagonist is named Daiyu after this character, yet she rejects her namesake because she doesn’t want the same tragic destiny. Four Treasures of the Sky" by debut author Jenny Tinghi Zhang is a powerful, eye-opening work of historical fiction which highlights a little known chapter in American history. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 created a ten year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. A historical signpost on a road in Idaho denoting a vigilante hanging was the inspiration for this magnificent novel. Kudos to Zhang for a well researched, haunting, emotionally filled read with overtones of magical realism and Chinese folklore. Highly recommended. The altering identities often serve to examine power structures around gender binaries, such as how men (particularly white men) seem to have access to violence while society looks the other way as long as it is directed at someone socially deemed beneath them (by race, class, or if they are a woman). While disguised as a man to be able to navigate the patriarchal society, Daiyu often reflects on what this means to inhabit the space of a man:Daiyu grows up hating her name and namesake: “Lin Daiyu was weak. I would be nothing like her, I promised myself. I did not want to be melancholic or jealous or spiteful. And I would never let myself die of a broken heart.” What is Daiyu’s relationship to Lin Daiyu, and how does it change over the course of the novel? Do you agree with Daiyu’s assessment that Lin Daiyu “was no heroine”? Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for an advanced audio copy of Four Treasures of the Sky. This title drops on April 5th and if you enjoy hi Throughout the novel, Daiyu must continue to reinvent herself to survive: “Since the beginning, being myself has led only to darkness. Instead, practice erasing and overturning and re-creating the self, until all I have to do is disappear.” What remains consistent for her throughout each reinvention, from Daiyu to Feng to Peony to Jacob? What does she lose along the way? Get him, someone else yells gleefully. The woman lunges forward, hands outstretched. Her gums are the color of rot. Behind her, the fishmongers’ faces fatten with anticipation. I close my eyes and brace. Radiant…A treasure of a debut…[Zhang’s] first novel reveals storytelling skills both vast and specific, bringing shadowy history to light while also displaying a remarkable talent for sensory detail.”

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