It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for Song by Michelle Jana Chan today! The author visits the blog to talk about the books that helped inspire her to write this novel. My thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation to join.
Author : Michelle Jana Chan
Title : Song
Pages : 464
Publisher : Unbound
Publication date : June 28, 2018
Opening in the mid-nineteenth-century, this dazzling debut novel traces the voyage of Song, a boy who leaves his impoverished family in rural China to seek his fortune. Song may have survived the perilous journey to the colony of British Guiana in the Caribbean, but once there he discovers riches are hard to come by, as he finds himself working as an indentured plantation worker.
Between places, between peoples, and increasingly aware that circumstances of birth carry more weight than accomplishments or good deeds, Song fears he may live as an outsider forever. This is a far-reaching and atmospheric story spanning nearly half a century and half the globe, and though it is set in the past, Song’s story of emigration and the quest for opportunity is, in many ways, a very contemporary tale.
Some of my favourite books… that consciously, and perhaps unconsciously too, helped inspire my writing of Song with its own mirroring themes of migration, displacement and assimilation.
Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
A fictionalised semi-autobiographic memoir set in his native Sri Lanka, Ondaatje mixes rumour, anecdote, poetry and blurred memory to piece together this fragmented portrayal of his outrageous family. ‘We see ourselves as remnants from the earlier generations that were destroyed,’ Ondaatje says, ‘I think all of our lives have been terribly shaped by what went on before us.’
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
An old-fashioned yet ambitious tale of sin and redemption, told by the rotating narrators of the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fervent evangelical Baptist from the southern states of the USA who takes his family on a Christian mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. Set against the backdrop of the country’s fight for independence, this is a harrowing post-colonial chronicle of religion, politics and race, as well as moral risk and personal responsibility.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Also located in the Congo, this is a story reflecting on a journey to “the uttermost ends of the Earth”. The narrator Marlow has been sent to find Mr Kurtz, a fellow European work colleague who has holed himself up in the interior. He finds the man on his death bed; his last words: “The horror! The horror!” perhaps referring to the atrocities Conrad himself witnessed in the Congo as it suffered under the colonial administration of the Belgians.
The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie
A family saga — brave, exuberant and witty — it takes in themes of ethnicity, religious fanaticism, art and love. At its heart is the exiled asthmatic son Moraes “Moor” Zogoiby, who travels from India to Spain, leaving behind family power struggles, ascribed destinies and curses, with his wheezing compared to that of the last exhalation of the last defeated Moor expelled from Granada, with another parallel to that of the declining Portuguese empire in Cochin, southern India.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Set in the post-colonial 1960s, here are three powerfully self-aware characters swept up in the impassioned struggle of Biafra to establish an independent republic in Nigeria, and the devastating war by starvation that followed. The struggle is about colonialism, ethnicity, class and race, but also all kinds of love, and the ways in which that complicates life and removes reason.
Michelle Jana Chan is an award-winning journalist and travel editor of Vanity Fair. She is also contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveller, presenter of the BBC’s ‘Global Guide’ and a writer for The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Travel & Leisure. Michelle has been named the Travel Media Awards’ Travel Writer of the Year. She was a Morehead-Cain scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.