Festival made accessible

Catalogue search for Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami in audiobook formatAbout now you may be wondering what happened to your good intentions of reading all those interesting books by those fascinating authors you heard about at WORD Christchurch or missed out on hearing at Auckland Writers Festival. Never fear, a solution is near!

Listen to your festival favourites

You may have not enough hours in the day to sit by the fire and read your fill of festival authors but help is at hand. You need not miss out on this year’s Auckland festival headliner Haruki Murakami. Try listening to his work in an audiobook. We have him available in downloadable audiobook from Overdrive and on CD.

Catalogue search for Hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world by Haruki Murakami i n audiobook formatFill in your spare moments on the bus or in the car, or while you vacuum the house, rake the leaves or paint the fence, or while exercising the dog or yourself by listening to an audiobook. If you have had a particularly tiring day and find you’re too tired to read, rather than turning on the television, snuggle up in a chair with an audiobook and soon you will be relaxed. Having trouble sleeping? My mother swears by lulling English voices as a sure-fire cure for insomnia.

Often audiobooks and large print titles have no reserve list so while others are waiting for a print edition, get ahead of the crowd. Better still, even if there is a wait list downloadable audiobooks on Overdrive do not have a reserve charge.

Catalogue search for H is for Hawke by Helen MacDonald in audiobook formatOverdrive is one of our suppliers of audiobooks and ebooks. You can find all their titles in our catalogue.

As well as Murakami, you might also try Booker Prize-winning novelist Ben Okri whose novel The Age of Magic has been newly released and is available on CD. Sometimes the CD format can be limiting as it requires you to be stationary. Happily we have Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk as an ISIS audiobook that is a clever format which you can download to your laptop and transfer to your MP3 player, freeing you up to listen to it anywhere.

The thousand autumns of Joseph de Zoet in audiobook formatA standout from Word Christchurch was the charming David Mitchell. Your ears can ring with the sounds and atmosphere of old Japan listening to his exotic enthralling tale The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet on CD.



Large print – easy to read!

If reading is difficult at night when the light is bad, or because you struggle with print at the end of a tiring day spent staring at a computer screen, large print may be the answer! Why not try David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green or The Thousand Autumn’s of Joseph de Zoet or Xinran’s touching Miss Chopsticks.

Walliams in audio and large print formats

Book cover for Demon Dentist by David Walliams in Playaway formatNothing like a bedtime story so why not borrow one of our children’s titles by the hit author David Walliams in an audiobook format to lull your darlings to sleep? We have audiobooks on CD, preloaded mp3 players, and downloadable audiobooks for your enjoyment.

If you have a child who is yet to find their stride with reading a wonderful way to introduce the love of books is by reading along to an audiobook so why not borrow the book and the audiobook together? We have Demon Dentist as a Playaway, a preloaded audiobook in its own wee player. All you or your child has to do is press play and you can carry it around with you. Ideal for children who are always on the move.

If small print is an obstacle try these David Walliams titles in large print.

Catalogue search for Mr Stink by David Walliams in large printCatalogue search for Ratburger by David Walliams in large print formatThe boy in the dress by David Walliams in Large Print format

More festival goodies

Xinran at the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season

It was interesting to hear Xinran speak at a WORD Christchurch event. She spoke for more than an hour and we could have listened to her for much longer. Xinran is a very good story teller. She told many stories from her 300 interviews in China. She spoke about some negative effects of the one child policy, especially the way these children were treated as little princes or princesses, spoilt, cossetted, and given very little opportunity to grow up as independent people.

Cover of Buy me the sky Cover of The Good women of China  Cover of Miss Chopsticks Cover of China Witness

Some stories were hard to believe and in fact were probably isolated cases, such as the child who demanded that her mother buy her the river. Other stories concerning mothers doing everything for the child were not so surprising when there was so much pressure on children to perform academically. For the same reason, we heard similar stories of Japanese children in the past, even if there were two or more children in the family. Xinran admitted that the one-child family was probably a necessity, however. It’s hard to know how these negative effects could have been avoided.

Many people wanted to ask her questions. One woman wanted to know more about her charity The Mothers’ Bridge of Love concerning girls who were adopted out to foreign countries like New Zealand. Xinran talked a little about this and how such girl babies were smuggled out by mothers. The long term result of a preference for male children is now the huge imbalance of adult men unable to find partners, especially in rural areas.

Her speech only covered negative aspects of the one child policy. I am looking forward to reading her book Buy Me the Sky to find out if it also includes some positive aspects.

Anna Sun
Upper Riccarton Library

The stories of the One Child Policy: An interview with Xinran

XinranThis week I was lucky enough to be able to interview the lovely Xinran, who is in Christchurch for WORD Christchurch’s Autumn Season (her session is on Thursday 14 May), and will be in Auckland for the Auckland Writers Festival later this week. We weren’t able to meet in person, but Xinran graciously offered to answer a few questions through email.

Buy Me The Sky comes out soon, I can’t wait to hear you talk about it when I see you in Auckland. Could you tell us a little about what sets this book apart from your others?

Cover of 'Buy Me The Sky' by Xinran. They are the stories of the first generation of One Child Policy.

In the last three decades, under the One Child Policy, China has prevented 400 million people from coming into this world, buying FOUR years for the world population to reach 6 billion. According to China’s sixth census in Oct 2014, by 2020 there will be 30 million more males than females among the age group of 20 to 45 year olds in China. More than 150,000 Western families have adopted Chinese orphans, mainly girls, since 1991. By 2014 China raised nearly 140 million ‘Suns’ or ‘Little Emperors’ since the 1980s.

‘Buy Me the Sky’ would help readers to see how those Chinese single child families live with those questions:
– ‘Is the mother keeping her child as a pet, or is the child keeping her parents as slaves, to be at her beck and call with every wave of her hand?!
– Is One Child Policy much more powerful than any kind of the beliefs rooted in culture, religion, education, and living environments?
– They all belong to the first generation of the One Child Policy, they have completely different views on China, the world, and the concept of a quality life because of their family backgrounds, living conditions, and their pursuit of different ideals. But is there any point they could agree with their family elders after their long march under One Child Policy?

You’ve dedicated so much to sharing stories of hardship. Would you encourage other people who have lived through very hard times to write down or otherwise share their experiences? Do you have any advice for people who want to do this?

None should forget the past, we also should know how to forgive it if the past has made us suffer a lot as mine. Any kind of past is the roots of our today and future, sharing it with others by our respect mind and honest writing, can be a heartfelt gift to our family and children.

You’ve written a lot of non-fiction, so what made you decide to write your fictional novel Miss Chopsticks?

Cover of 'Miss Chopsticks' by XinranIn fact, three sisters in the book are real, they all have their sisters too, I thought their stories could help my readers to see how China has been transformed from poor to rich by those kind of countryside uneducated women in three generations. Therefore  I ‘made up’ a mother for them, the book become ‘’fiction’’.

Did libraries play a part in your life when you were growing up? How about now?

I grow up in Beijing, the capital of China. It was full of “grandma stories” and over 700 years traditional streets. Now, it has become a very modern city , huge, crowed and very colourful, with its ‘unique pollution’  both by money and air.

You mention Chinese children adopted to New Zealanders a few times, especially in your book Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother. Is there any special message you would like to give these children?

 Yes, as always! The first of all, believe me about this, your Chinese mother never forgot you since you started ‘talking’ with her in her tummy. You have a life because of her love and bravery!
Secondly, great thanks to your New Zealand family, they have offered you the most beautiful country to you life, enjoy it with your passion and cars to it for your adoptive family.

The last, I hope you could join my charity ‘The Mothers Bridge of Love’ MBL for helping some poor and disabled kids who are still struggling in rural China. They need books to read and friends to visit them, as we all do! xiexie


Xinran and the one child generation in China

Xinran became famous with her first book – the bestselling semi-memoir, The Good Women of China. We have this title as an eBook too.

Xinran was born in Beijing in 1958, and grew up in the Cultural Revolution before migrating to England in 1997. She was a popular broadcaster and journalist in China. She currently resides in London and writes for The Guardian.

Cover of The Good women of China Cover of Miss Chopsticks Cover of China Witness Cover of Buy me the sky

She writes in Chinese and is translated by Esther Tyldesley. Her books include Sky Burial (2004), Miss Chopsticks (2007), China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation (2008) and, more recently, Buy Me the Sky (2015).

Xinran began writing about women’s issues and life stories. More recently, her books cover cultural, economic, and other social issues too – before, during and after the Cultural Revolution. These topics are largely neglected in popular memoirs. She explores apolitical populations, and coming of age in the Cultural Revolution – reflecting thoughtfully on changes, expressions of loss and loneliness.  She aims to reveal the true China.

XinranWORD Christchurch gives me an opportunity to hear Xinran talking about her latest book Buy Me the Sky which focuses on China’s one-child policy’s impact. As a Chinese woman with only one daughter, I am keen to hear her understanding and interpretation about China’s one-child policy – she, like me, is a mother who grew up during the Cultural Revolution and has only one child.

WORD Christchurch recommends

Anna Sun
Upper Riccarton Library

Words on a Night Breeze

China witness
China witness

Believe it or not Words on a night breeze was the title of the ground breaking talk back radio show that Chinese writer Xinran hosted at the end of the 1980s. A daring new venture in China at the time, the callers and letter writers opened Xinran’s eyes to the struggles, tragedies and hard lives of many ordinary Chinese people (particularly women), and set her on the path of recording their stories. A city dweller, Xinran was shocked when she began to travel in the Chinese countryside and she says “I have been educated by Chinese peasants”

Her passion is to tell these stories to explain the struggles of the past to the current generation in China amongst whom there seems to be a terrible ignorance of such things as the early years of Mao’s reign and the Cultural Revolution. I think those Westerners who read her books will begin to understand a little about what for many of us is a mysterious and rather frightening culture.

I loved Xinran’s session – she shone through as a passionate, humane person, overcoming the sound system in the Limes Room to connect with her audience. Read her books, and investigate her charity The Mothers’ Bridge of Love for Chinese Children which helps different groups of Chinese children. Projects include helping Chinese children adopted abroad to travel to China to discover their birth culture and to give disabled children in China a better future.