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Community reading

Book festival highlights novel based on Chinese reality

2002 by Fernandina Beach News-Leader

By: KIMBERLY KAPPEL, News-Leader

 

 

 

As part of the second annual Book Island Festival, residents can participate in One Book, One Community, designed to promote a conversation about social and community issues. This is the first year of the event and the book, "China Run," will be featured. Pictured are some of the community members and library staff involved in planning the event, including Library System director Dawn Bostwick, right, who said the library has 14 copies of the book, and Don Shaw, second from right, who is offering the book at a 25-percent discount at his store, Books Plus on Centre Street.

 

Author David Ball's experiences while adopting his daughter in China, combined with cultural research and his imagination, helped the writer produce an adventure novel that is as rich in cultural significance as it is in plot and suspense.
And for all that it has to offer, "China Run," Ball's second novel, will be featured as part of the second annual Book Island Festival in an event called One Book, One Community, which is designed to promote a conversation about social and community issues and will include a forum with local experts after the Book Island Festival.
Ball will be one of the guest authors at the festival, scheduled for Oct. 3-5, and his novel was selected as the community's one book to be read. He said this is the first time his book has been featured in a communitywide reading program.
"I was delighted and honored to be selected," Ball said. "It's fascinating to hear comments [about the book]."
"China Run" is a story about seven families who go to China to adopt a child, only to learn two days after they have taken custody of the babies that they have been given the wrong children. Ball said he came up with the idea for his book while he and his wife were in China to adopt their daughter.
"When we were there, I heard the story of a woman who was given the wrong baby. She'd been given a healthy child instead of one with special needs," Ball said.

 

 

 

About the author
"China Run" is David Ball's second novel. His first one, "Empires of Sand," a historical fiction published in the mid-1990s, is set in the 1880s in North Africa and Paris. Ball started the first novel in the early 1980s, but after writing 100 pages, he put the manuscript in a drawer and went to work in business.
Ten years later while traveling for business he reread his first effort and decided to fix the problems. After doing so, he submitted the work to an agent. Nine months after receiving the material, the agent read the book over a Labor Day weekend, and within weeks it had been sold for publication. Ball then received a contract for a second historical novel, which he is finishing, and is starting a new book.

 

Ball said the woman had all the baby's paperwork and passport and decided to keep the child. Though fearful of being caught, she boarded a plane to leave China with the baby and made it safely the United States.
"I wondered what I would do," Ball said. And that wonder would turn into a nagging question that prompted him to act and write. "I went back to China and wrote ["China Run"]."
Ball said he made two three-week trips to China, tracing the journey of the novel's heroine and encountering the people she would meet. "I spent time with a map and travel books. I decided the heroine's route would be up the Yangze River," he said.
But while Ball found the path he sought for his heroine to take in China, he did not find the people he had anticipated she would meet there.
"I was also looking for the heartless Chinese giving up their babies," he said. "... I found people [who] loved their babies as much as anyone on Earth."
Ball said he learned that in many cases people gave up their babies, mainly daughters, because of the country's one child policy and the way the government enforces it. He said he found people who secretly helped fight the system by protecting women and their baby girls despite the danger of being caught.
Ball said China has a long-standing cultural preference for male babies. "They need sons to work the farms and take care of them in old age," he said. Daughters, on the other hand, require a dowry and live with their in-laws once married, he said.
But China's quest for sons has had a price. And at the beginning of his book, Ball describes the pain created by the one child policy. He writes about a character who gives birth to several daughters, only to see them killed or allowed to die because a son is wanted. In a subsequent incident, she is forced to have an abortion after an ultrasound reveals another girl growing inside her, but the fetus turns out to be a boy. For her last pregnancy, she gives birth in secret and finds someone to take the girl and give the baby a chance at life. Meanwhile, another woman becomes sterile as a result of a forced abortion and then loses her husband. Though the women in Ball's book are fictional, he said they represent real experiences that people in China told him about.
"There are some awful choices a woman faces in China. There's still lots of terrible things going on," Ball said. "In one fourth quarter of 2001, the quotas had not been met in Huaiji, a poor country province of Guangdong, and 20,000 women were forced to have abortions. This is not about pro-choice or pro-life. It has to do with government intrusion into private lives with government ripping families apart while not providing adequate contraception or family planning education."
China's policy has also had an impact on the ratio of men to women. Ball said there are 117 men for every 100 women as a result of the first 20 years of the one child policy. One violent consequence is that women have been kidnapped and forced to marry strangers, he said.
Dawn Bostwick, Nassau County Public Library System director, praised the book, saying it offers something for everyone. She said it's a thriller with some scary parts.
"It's an exciting chase through China... a bird's eye view of the country," Bostwick said. "It sucks you in from the first page."
Bostwick said the library has 14 copies of the book and that Books Plus on Centre Street is selling it at a 25-percent discount. She said local experts on some of the book's themes will meet for discussion groups in November. Topics could will include international law, adoption, diversity and culture.