Alec Ash is a writer and editor based in Yunnan, China. The author of Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China and co-editor of While We're Here, Ash is currently the Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel.
'Having just moved to Yunnan after eight years in Beijing, I’m reading Harvest Season
, a novel by local author Chris Taylor. Chris lived in Kunming and Dali for many years, and his novel explores some key expat themes readers will enjoy. Set in the fictional lakeside town of Shuangshan – clearly a stand-in for Dali – the plot revolves around how the foreigners interact with and change local life. The novel is flawed – chiefly the unlikeability of the narrator, lording it over other residents – but it’s an entertaining read and has plenty that long-timers in China will recognise, plus a snapshot of Dali as it began to commercialise.'
'One essential writer who is consistently neglected in the China canon is Sang Ye, an oral historian who travelled all around the country in the '80s and '90s, talking to ordinary folk and then telling their story with the understanding that only a native Chinese author can bring. China Candid is the best starting point – it's a grassroots portrait of China in the style of Studs Terkel. And if that piques your curiosity, then the earlier Chinese Lives is just as good, and inspired newer additions to the field of oral history, such as Liao Yiwu’s The Corpse Walker.'