Once Upon a Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up
'Ah, Xiaolu, you are so big now!' Then I heard my grandmother speaking behind the woman, 'This is your mother, call her mother!' I stared at the woman, perplexed. Xiaolu Guo meets her parents for the first time when she is six. They are strangers to her. When Xiaolu is born her parents hand her over to a childless peasant couple in the mountains. Aged two, and suffering from malnutrition on a diet of yam leaves, they leave Xiaolu with her illiterate grandparents in a fishing village on the East China Sea. It's a strange beginning. Like a Wild Swans for a new generation, Once Upon a Time in the East takes Xiaolu from a run-down shack to film school in a rapidly changing Beijing, navigating the everyday peculiarity of modern China: censorship, underground art, Western boyfriends. In 2002 she leaves Beijing on a scholarship to study in a picturesque British village. Now, after a decade in Europe, her tale of East to West resonates with the insight that can only come from someone who is both an outsider and at home. Xiaolu Guo's extraordinary memoir is a handbook of life lessons. How to be an artist when censorship kills creativity and the only job you can get is writing bad telenovela scripts. How to be a woman when female babies are regularly drowned at birth and sexual abuse is commonplace. Most poignantly of all: how to love when you've never been shown how.
Xiaolu Guo was born in south China. She studied film at the Beijing Film Academy and published six books in China before she moved to London in 2002. The English translation of Village of Stone was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her first novel written in English, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, published in 2008, was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Her most recent novel, I Am China, was longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. In 2013 she was named as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. Xiaolu has also directed several award-winning films including She, A Chinese and a documentary about London, Late at Night. She lives in London and Berlin.