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Living Treasures
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A law student defies the one-child policy to bestow the gift of life upon a rural family.
A law student defies the one-child policy to bestow the gift of life upon a rural family.

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C.E. Poverman, author of Love by Drowning, The Black Velvet Girl, and Solomon’s Daughter, says, "In Living Treasures, Bao is a first year law student living untouched within the bubble of her parents’ expectations when she falls in love with a young soldier, Tong, and finds herself pregnant. With this, she starts her journey, which will drive her to make hard choices. Part myth, part fairy tale, yet completely realistic in its depiction of daily life in China, this is the beautiful and unique coming of age story of a young woman at a moment of history in which her personal journey flows together with that of her generation, a journey of self-determination."

Elizabeth Graver, author of The End of the Point, says, "Yang Huang has written a wonderful first novel. Bao is a complex and appealing character whose harrowing journey through 1989 rural China is told in quietly poetic language that illuminates and reveals. I did not want this book to end.”

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From Kirkus Review: 
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/yang-huang/living-treasures/

A college student faces personal and political challenges in Tiananmen-era China.

In Huang’s debut novel, college student Gu Bao makes her way through an evolving China that is moving toward modernity but cannot escape the memory of the Cultural Revolution. The political and the personal are irrevocably intertwined in Bao’s world. She loves Tong but knows she will lose her place at the university if she is seen with him because students are expected to put their duty to the state ahead of romantic relationships; an off-campus dinner party revolves as much around preparing the perfect entree as it does around news and images from the ongoing protests. The protests at Tiananmen Square and elsewhere have tragic consequences, both on a national scale and close to home, as one of Bao’s friends is killed shortly before he was scheduled to leave the country. The conflict at the center of Bao’s story is a deeply personal one—she becomes pregnant and knows that having a baby will bring an end to her education and condemn her to a bleak future—but it’s also set against the backdrop of China’s authoritarian family-planning policies. When Bao travels to her grandparents’ rural home, she befriends a peasant woman who is concealing an illegal pregnancy. When the authorities discover the woman’s condition and order her sterilization, Bao sees firsthand that personal vindictiveness is as strong a force as party loyalty when it comes to enforcing the law. She acts to protect her friend but finds herself in unexpected personal danger. Huang does an admirable job balancing Bao’s individual story against the canvas of China’s evolution using crisply drawn characters who reveal their layers as the story progresses. Some readers may find the book’s opening scene, in which a young Bao encounters a renegade panda, overly fablelike, but Huang avoids the trap of overusing the panda as a metaphor in the book.

A knotty, engaging novel of China’s recent history.

Thank you, Roberto Mattos.
Books and Movies: Reviews
http://booksandmoviesreviews.blogspot.com/2014/06/book-living-treasures-by-yang-huang.html

This is a very well written and very touching story, about a young lady named Gu Bao who is studying to be a lawyer so she can protect people against government abuse in China. Her life takes a turn during the student's demonstration against the government in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. She becomes involved with a soldier, and her story develops at a nice pace. Her struggle dealing with her parents over an abortion, her move to live with her grandparents for a while, and the development of a friendship with an expectant mother who is hiding in the mountains from one-child policy enforcers to safely deliver her baby, all these situations are richly described, exploiting all the psychological angles, showing the struggle in Bao's young mind to do the right thing.

This novel makes us wish that this was really just a work of fiction and nothing that is described here really did happen in China, but I believe that this is only a wish. When a government tries to repress the free will of its people, it loses legitimacy and from there on, does not represent the people's will anymore.

I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers who enjoy a very well written work of fiction, on a very timely subject, that will keep them entertained for hours. 

I received a copy of this book from the author through the publisher (thanks, Simone from Harvard Square Editions!) and I was not requested to write a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

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Thank you, Dianne Bylo.
From: Tome Tender
http://tometender.blogspot.be/2014/06/hidden-treasures-by-yang-huang.html?zx=774ac39deacaa300

Living Treasures
by Yang Huang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like I have unearthed another hidden gem! Living Treasures by Yang Huang is a beautiful tale of a young woman’s struggle for her own independence as well as the independence of the Chinese people from the brutal government control and abuse. Determined to become a lawyer and advocate for her people, Gu Bao attends university, but finds her sheltered world hasn’t prepared her for life on her own up close and personal with the unrest that is stirring among her fellow students. When a demonstration results in soldiers being called in, Bao meets a young soldier who steals her heart and her virginity. Confused, ashamed, yet craving this young man, she battles a war within between tradition and honor towards her family and the feelings she has for Tong. Forced to choose between her education, her goals and Tong after discovering she is pregnant, family pressure wins and she has an abortion, turning her back on the man she loves. Forced to recuperate in her grandparents’ very poor and very small village, Bao realizes how the weight of the government is truly crushing these hardworking people. It is time for Bao to do the right thing and stand up for those who are too afraid of the repercussions of such acts. Will it cost her re-kindled love with Tong? Will it cost her life? If she doesn’t take a stand, who will?

With so much beauty and wonder in China, it is hard to reconcile what the Chinese people must deal with on a daily basis. Bao’s character is conflicted, confused and determined to make a difference, while lacking the maturity to find a starting point, yet as the story progresses; her personal growth is like watching a flower slowly opening to its full brilliance. The patience and love exhibited by her grandparents is a thing of beauty to watch. Yang Huang has written a smooth and flowing work of art through words that showcase the inner turmoil of the characters. The vivid scenes that are described transport the reader from their reading chair to the magic and beauty of a country torn apart by corruption and the lust for power. When an author can deliver you across continents to witness the world they have created, they have done a masterful job of writing.

I received this copy from Harvard Square Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Elizabeth Evans, the author of The Blue Hour and Carter Clay, says, "Like a young Alice Munro, Yang Huang—authoritative, compassionate, and witty—has a gift for creating characters whose actions, for good or evil, can take even themselves by surprise. LIVING TREASURES is a suspenseful, soul-satisfying novel by an impeccable storyteller. I eagerly await her next book."

Reviewed by Diane Donovan at Midwest Book Review:

Living Treasures was a Bellwether Prize finalist and is a powerful novel set in China and centered on a young law student who finds her life changed by the violence in Tiananmen Square, which kills one of her friends. Her reaction (since she eschews violence) is to fall in love with a charismatic young soldier: the only problem is, she becomes pregnant.

Her parents arrange for her abortion and she flees school and home in disgrace, ending up at her grandparents' house in China's remote Sichuan mountains.

For all intents and purposes this story could have ended here; but Bao's saga continues in an unexpected direction when she helps a panda and a pregnant young mother (who is hiding from China's one-child policy enforcer).

Here Bao's own background comes into play as she sides with family and survival and finds herself simultaneously immersed in a dual struggle to save a young woman and a panda cub.

Living Treasures is nothing short of spectacular; especially for readers who want a story steeped in Chinese culture, tradition, and politics but cemented by a powerful young woman who emerges as a savior to others. Equally notable are passages filled with a sense of rural place, which engage all one's senses in the sounds, smells, and feel of Sichuan province:

"She hiked up the mountain. Wild azalea leaves glistened, their buds swollen and pink, ready to burst into flower. The red bark of birch trees caught the sun's slanting rays, and lichens drooped in luminous strands from their boughs…Never in her life had she imagined fawning over a peasant who tried to circumvent the one-child policy. Bao was a university student, the elite of Chinese youth, and a law student at that!"

Any who want a slowly-building sense of place and purpose and who want to better understand Chinese culture, history, and heritage will find Living Treasures is all about the nation's changes, reflected in the life of young Bao as she learns how and when to take stands for her changing beliefs.

Literary and lyrical, Living Treasures is a lovely, absorbing story steeped in Chinese tradition.
Photo: Reviewed by Diane Donovan at Midwest Book Review:

Living Treasures was a Bellwether Prize finalist and is a powerful novel set in China and centered on a young law student who finds her life changed by the violence in Tiananmen Square, which kills one of her friends. Her reaction (since she eschews violence) is to fall in love with a charismatic young soldier: the only problem is, she becomes pregnant.

Her parents arrange for her abortion and she flees school and home in disgrace, ending up at her grandparents' house in China's remote Sichuan mountains.

For all intents and purposes this story could have ended here; but Bao's saga continues in an unexpected direction when she helps a panda and a pregnant young mother (who is hiding from China's one-child policy enforcer).

Here Bao's own background comes into play as she sides with family and survival and finds herself simultaneously immersed in a dual struggle to save a young woman and a panda cub.

Living Treasures is nothing short of spectacular; especially for readers who want a story steeped in Chinese culture, tradition, and politics but cemented by a powerful young woman who emerges as a savior to others. Equally notable are passages filled with a sense of rural place, which engage all one's senses in the sounds, smells, and feel of Sichuan province:

"She hiked up the mountain. Wild azalea leaves glistened, their buds swollen and pink, ready to burst into flower. The red bark of birch trees caught the sun's slanting rays, and lichens drooped in luminous strands from their boughs…Never in her life had she imagined fawning over a peasant who tried to circumvent the one-child policy. Bao was a university student, the elite of Chinese youth, and a law student at that!"

Any who want a slowly-building sense of place and purpose and who want to better understand Chinese culture, history, and heritage will find Living Treasures is all about the nation's changes, reflected in the life of young Bao as she learns how and when to take stands for her changing beliefs.

Literary and lyrical, Living Treasures is a lovely, absorbing story steeped in Chinese tradition.

“Living Treasures is a treasure,” says Patricia Harman, author of The Midwife of Hope River, The Blue Cotton Gown and Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey. “Sensual, brave and relevant, the book takes you to a place in China that few of us have ever experienced. I couldn’t put it down.”

Amy Glynn, the award winning poet and author of The Modern Herbal, says, “Living Treasures is a poignant and fascinating exploration of how we shape and are shaped by the events and environments that choose us.”
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