Enjoy A Literary Historical Travelogue About Love, Acceptance, And Enduring In The Face Of Adversity
The best kind of historical fiction is the kind that sweeps you up in its story and characters, but teaches you something about the world in the process. Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom, the second novel in The Sino-American Tales trilogy, by Li Bo (April, 2017) is the kind of novel that achieves this in spades.
From page one, Li Bo (also known as Dr. Steven Leibo, professor of International History & Politics and Asia Scholar) deftly tells a story full of romance and adventure that will keep readers turning pages, but ultimately teaches them quite a lot about the U.S. and China in the post Civil-War era. On the heels of the warmly received first book in the series, Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom, continues where the first book left off: the mid-nineteenth century after the Chinese Civil War.
The novel follows Jason Brandt and his wife, Black Jade, as they travel from Shanghai to Boston in the years following the American Civil War. What they find is a less than welcoming America, and Americans who are increasingly anxious about competition from lower wage Chinese immigrants, demanding an end to all Chinese immigration - culminating in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
Inspired by Mark Twain's travel memoir Innocents Abroad, Beyond The Heavenly Kingdom follows the thoughts of Brandt, a Shanghai-based American journalist, as he imagines writing a book that chronicles his own travels around the world.
He and Black Jade journey to Boston, where his father, a retired Christian missionary, lives. On the journey, Brandt and Black Jade learn of the Troy Female Seminary, a pioneering girls' school in Upstate New York, and dream of opening a similar school in China. Along the way, they encounter actual historical figures-including President Grant, Mark Twain, and Senator Charles Sumner-as well as literary characters such as Phileas Fogg.
While cameos by characters historical and literary might seem fantastic, they're very much a nod to the authenticity of time and place, as well as the literary tradition in which Li Bo is writing. And the xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment that Brandt and Black Jade face are unfortunately all too real-and are of course issues that will ring true to readers trying to come to terms with those same issues today. "I have spent my entire life studying the topic of Asian Western relations," says Li Bo. "I was writing about the presidential campaigns of 1876 and 1880 in this novel and finding that the politics were remarkably similar to what just happened in 2016."
Li Bo's experience as a scholar is evident in his immersive historical and cultural settings, but he infuses the story with just enough romance and adventure that it never seems dogmatic or heavy in any way. Fans of historical fiction, especially about Chinese American History a la Lisa See or Amy Tam, will gravitate towards The Sino-American Tales and be so pleased to have traveled the world of the past with these characters.
About the Author:
Dr. Steven Leibo, who writes fiction under the pen name of Li Bo, is a professor of modern international history at the Sage Colleges in New York. Dr. Leibo's honors include being named a Fulbright scholar and election to the National Committee on US-China Relations. In addition, he holds a courtesy appointment as an "associate in research" at the Fairbank Center on Chinese Studies at Harvard University. He is the author of The Sino-American Tales fictional trilogy, which includes Tienkuo: The Heavenly Kingdom and his newest release Beyond The Heavenly Kingdom, as well as the nonfiction annual East & Southeast Asia 2017-18