Dear Great Book Guru, After the past weekend here in Sea Cliff I think I need a vacation. Starting with the wildly successful Chill Out , then the delightful Progressive Dinner, and finally, the moving Veterans' Day ceremony at Clifton Park, this was surely a Sea Cliff weekend for the annals and apparently plans are already being made for next year -so mark your calendars. Talking about vacations, I am planning a trip to China this summer and I would like to begin preparing. Do you have any suggestions? Eager Traveler
Dear Eager Traveler, I have just finished reading the perfect book for your introduction to present day China: DREAMING IN CHINESE by Deborah Fallows. Subtitled "Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Marriage," this book recounts the author's attempt to learn Mandarin, the principal language of large parts of China, but it is much more than an exploration of language. Fallows divides this short book (200 pages) into sections which detail the years she spent working and traveling throughout China with her husband and young children. She uses her study of the language to underscore cultural differences whether it be the limited use of personal pronouns, arrangements of north and south on maps, the order of names and addresses from large to small ( country, city, street, apartment number), or the fact that 85% of Chinese share 7 family names and how all this impacts the individual's view of self, family and nation. Throughout, Fallows offers interesting anecdotes about her adventures with the language and culture of China. A very good introduction, indeed!