It was some decade. The universities were closed. Students were at war. Poetry was banned. And the word “love,” unless applied to Mao, was expressly forbidden. Artists were denounced, and many opted for suicide. This is the time — its madness, its passion, its complexity — that Xujun Eberlein brings vividly to life in Apologies Forthcoming, her moving collection of short stories about the millions who lived during China’s Cultural Revolution.
“Chinese-American authors such as Iris Chang and Amy Tan have made a significant contribution to factual and fictional literature, but few have a tale to tell as piquant as Xujun Eberlein’s.” — South China Morning Post
“In this book, a tragic era that the current Chinese leadership would like people to forget is stirred to vivid life by an author who was there at the time and bears insightful witness through her fiction. Mao Zedong’s desperate and incoherent scheme to recapture his dictatorial hold on China, which was slipping away in the aftermath of the catastrophic Great Leap Forward, serves as a fascinating backdrop for these subtle stories of patriotism, love, hope and loss. Most of these eight tales have been previously published in US literary journals such as AGNI, Night Train and Cottonwood. … Laudable in its own right, Eberlein’s collection is also a reminder of all the great stories that could and should be written in China today. Unfortunately, exile continues to be the home of China’s most honest and moving narratives.” — Asia Times
“In the year that marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Xujun Eberlein’s Apologies Forthcoming could not be more pointedly named or apposite in theme. The collection of short stories is a maddening and deeply touching remembrance of the Cultural Revolution at a human level. With subtle political censure, Eberlein brings to life characters that draw out the helplessness, hope and heartache of the people who lived through the decade and its long, awful aftermath. The author has a way of delivering pathos that leaves a pang in the chest.” — Time Out
The SCMP & Dymocks Book Club lists Apologies Forthcoming as a recommended read, and Xujun Eberlein has written a special introduction for SCMP subscribers. Read it here.
How does Xujun Eberlein write? Time Out Hong Kong asked the question.
“In Apologies Forthcoming, Eberlein excels. An earlier edition of this, her first book, won the 2007 Tartt Fiction Award. The readers glean new understanding about the Cultural Revolution, its aftermath and how it affected everyone there. “What was heroic, just and glorious then, is ignorant, criminal and shameful now. It seems only those who survive the waste can understand, dooming new generations to repeat it in different places, for different causes.” The impact of those turbulent times lingers, still affecting hundreds of millions of Chinese. “My mom said she never once got enough to eat that whole year and she didn’t have milk to nurse me. I was always crying with hunger. I lived, but I’ve got a stomach problem.” Any meaningful apologies for past misdeeds come not from national leaders, but at the level of individual citizens to each other. Apologies Forthcoming is an important book about China’s past and the repercussions.” — Cairns Media Magazine
“Xujun Eberlein is a fresh voice in American fiction, a Chinese writer with a remarkably shrewd, interesting tongue. …There is a richness in her vision that sets it apart.” — Jay Parini, novelist, biographer; author of Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America
“Superbly presented and engaging fiction deftly showcasing the human condition, with a particular flair for realism in both character and dialogue.” — Midwest Book Review
“Xujun Eberlein remembers the stories China’s leaders want to forget. In her first book, Apologies Forthcoming, she writes about growing up in China at a time parents feared their children and students marched their teachers through the streets in dunce caps. As a young student, she saw Red Guard factions fight, sometimes fatally, in the streets over who was more loyal to Chairman Mao. Walking arm-in-arm with the Canadian teacher who became her husband, they were both arrested. In her book’s eight stories, other published works and her blog, Eberlein has created a forceful, honest voice that carries readers into smokey kitchens and lazy afternoons, crowded college dorms and ideological ‘struggle’ sessions which she left behind but refuses to forget.” — MetroWest Daily
“Eberlein’s well-crafted, often moving stories deal primarily with the final years of the Cultural Revolution and the fascinating in-between period that followed, stretching from Mao’s death through the early 1980s, that has received less attention so far in works readily available in English. All demonstrate the author’s knack for effective quick character sketches and her skill at bringing natural and social settings to life via a minimum of carefully chosen details.“ — Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Professor of Chinese History, UC Irvine; author of Global Shanghai, 1850-2010
“Xujun Eberlein has an intimate feel for how the general conditions of a culture — her native Chinese culture — shape and distress the lives of her characters. She is a gifted story-teller, attuned to how people think and feel and deal with the things that really matter behind the show of appearances. The stories have a subtly addictive momentum.” — Sven Birkerts, literary critic, editor of AGNI, and author of My Sky Blue Trade
“Xujun Eberlein is a writer of uncommon talent. With affection and perception, she has drawn engaging characters struggling with love, friendship and loss in Chinese society during and after the Cultural Revolution. Apologies Forthcoming is a gem of a book.” — Laila Lalami, author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits
“The author of this short story collection is smart, articulate, and fearless. She is one of my new heroines—having grown up in the turmoil of China in the 70s and 80s, she moved the US in 1988 and achieved a PhD from MIT, but she didn’t stop there; she has used her fine talents in English to bring immediacy to the stories of individuals caught up in the turmoil during and after China’s Cultural Revolution. She dares to let her characters show the emptiness of this historic period—showing rather than telling—how people became unmoored from their own humanity.” — Book Tsunami
“The value of Eberlein’s writing is to convey to an American audience the emotional complexities of individuals amidst the historical change of recent Chinese history.” — Rain Taxi
“This collection of short stories set against a backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution is remarkable primarily for its unstinting authenticity. The reader will understand from depictions of the places and events and from the rendering of the characters and their conflicted loyalties that this is a writer who knows what she’s talking about.” — Perpetual Folly
“Despite the similarity of setting, each story feels distinct and fresh, written with a keen understanding of how the political impacts the personal at every level of a society, whether the characters are poets or revolutionaries or children.” — New Pages
“Xujun combines the ability to weave complex short stories with grand themes, filled with interesting characters that the reader wishes wouldn’t depart at the end of each story.“ — Waiguoren Critic of South China