2014 – 2015

Previous: 2013: My epic clusterfuck drama year

Read all at Webtoons.com

2014 – 2015: After recovering from some heartache, I reinvent myself yet again (tattoos, grey hair). Then family, family, and more family; meeting the next generation.
And at long last the love of my life, and we meet each others’ parents *shudder* … Africa!
Lastly, novel published. 

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Book Review: Year of the Fire Dragons

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https://thenanfang.com/year-fire-dragons-memoir-documents-expat-life-hong-kong/

 

Year of Fire Dragons: An American Woman’s Story of Coming of Age in Hong Kong is a new memoir by Hong Kong-based American writer Shannon Young, who is also editor of the anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?

In Year of the Fire Dragons, Young gets very personal, and begins with the romantic story of meeting a Hong Konger named Ben in London. The long distance relationship continues while she intimately explores the Special Administrative Region.

The book details Young’s time as a NET teacher (Native English Teacher) in her first year in Hong Kong as she figures out how to maneuver the city. With an outsider’s perspective, she gives vivid descriptions of shopping markets, embraces the glamour of Central, learns about tensions with the mainland, discovers cultural differences in teaching, and travels the world.

The prose is often fanciful, with lines such as, “The humidity surrounded me like steam pouring out of a broken dumpling,” and, “As the sun dipped toward the horizon, we fell silent, watching the way it reflected through the quiet ripples marking our passage.”

Young is a talented writer. Her knowledge of food in particular truly gets to the core of Hong Kong culture. However, she can get lost in details at times, with scattered chapters ranging from Cantonese classes to clubbing in Lan Kwai Fong. She repeatedly introduces various friends over drinks and then we never see them again in the course of the book. Of course, it is a memoir and real life often doesn’t translate into novel-style story structure. Still, one of the most intriguing and consistent subplots is about her sister’s expat romance and wedding, which contrasts with Young’s own relationship.

The main bulk of the narrative concerns the challenges of having a long-distance partner, focusing on the tragic irony that her boyfriend Ben is from Hong Kong yet she lives there and he doesn’t. As the book progresses, Young finds it harder and harder to defend the two-year plus relationship to her coworkers and friends. No spoilers how it all turns out, but rest assured Young’s perspective is always optimistic despite tough times.

One of the most interesting parts comes in the midpoint when Young reveals her roots: her father was born in Hong Kong (though not raised there). Quotes from the letters of her Asia-traveling grandparents are included.

From 1955: Actually, Hong Kong is a wonderful place to live—we think. Of course there are many things one could complain about, as there are wherever you go, but we think there are far more things to enjoy and be thankful for.

Truly an amazing find, to see the similarities between expats of that era and those of today!

The book as a whole may not be particularly interesting for old China hands. Experienced expats and English teachers probably won’t learn many new things. But for readers less familiar with Hong Kong and life abroad, this memoir can make the perfect introduction.

Recommended both for Hong Kong newcomers and as a good gift for China-based readers to share with friends back home in order to explain what life is like for expats.

Year of Fire Dragons is published by Blacksmith Books, available in Hong Kong and on Amazon.

 

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Author Shannon Young

Welcome to my blog, preliminary introductions ~

Well everyone, welcome to my blog. It’s been a while since I’ve been down this blogging path, but here I go again.

I am based in China. But I don’t want to have the typical expat China blog, all about “wow its so crazy here and I want to complain!” I may post some funny experiences from time to time, yet what I’m really interested in is sharing my writings.

I’ve lived here for five years. Primarily in Shenzhen, one year in Guangzhou but I like Shenzhen better so I moved back. This city is, by the way, a Special Economic Zone that was the leader of China’s rapid economic rise. It is in the tropical Southern province of Guangdong. Guangzhou is the capital, 3rd largest city and it turned out to be a bit too epic for me. For perspective on how immensely large these Asian megacities are, Shenzhen is bigger than New York and its not even the top ten here.

Shenzhen also borders Hong Kong, which is kinda sorta China but not really kinda sorta China. Don’t get me started on the pseudosovereignty issue, but suffice to say Hong Kong is a great bastion of freedom and I love it (but why don’t I live there?) and its a bit expensive there.

Even before moving here, I wrote fiction. I am a freelancer, and if you guess my main part-time job that pays the rent I’ll give you a prize. I do some English language journalism pieces on occasion, a google of my name and “Shenzhen” will show some that I’ve published, but those are not the most interesting things I’m interested in promoting. I’ll share some links from time to time.

A common question asked is “What brought you to China?” That story involves the Burning Man festival in 2008, maybe illicit substances, and that drunk conversation we’ve all had in which we vow to embark on some big project and then when sobriety comes we forget all about it. This time I stuck with it and came here. I liked the place, so I stayed.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for excerpts, links, and hopefully a good read or two.