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Life of Miracles along the Yangtze and Mississippi

Cover design by Erin Kirk New. Cover photograph by Wang Ping.

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Winner of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs 2017 Award for Creative Nonfiction, selected by Gretel Ehrlich


There are only two ways to live our life, according to Albert Einstein: one is as if nothing is a miracle; the other, as if everything is a miracle. Life of Miracles along the Yangtze and Mississippi is a book about how the impossible became possible - about things that happened in China and America to the people Wang Ping grew up with, met, and befriended along her journeys between these two distant rivers. This is also a story about water, alive with spirits and energy, giving birth to all sentient beings. We are water. The river runs through us. Those who live in harmony with water can ride the current of the universe - the secret of Tao, reaching all the way to the sea of miracles, one story, one droplet, and one wave at a time. A miracle is a state of mind, a way of living: how we face hardship, pain, and tragedies, how we transform them into fuels for our journey and transcend them into joy and hope. This is a book about how ordinary people perform miracles every day; how we are touched, touching, all the time, across oceans and continents, across time and space, through our stories.

"Life of Miracles along the Yangtze and Mississippi is free-wheeling, unusual, and always charged as it swings back and forth in time and cultures. These are mountain and river tales wound together like eels navigating the muddy waters of political, cultural, and personal displacement and wars waged against the human spirit. Episodes wriggle between cities on either side of the Pacific, China to the U.S. and back again, from Tiger Leaping Gorge to New York, to Tibet, to the Yangtze and the Mississippi. Between the trapped and the free as the writer swims between homes and two rivers simultaneously." - Gretel Ehrlich

"A wry, distinctive voice animates Wang Ping's stories. She melds the autobiographical with the informative and comes up with a unified hybrid... She portrays her family members and neighbors as vividly as Charles Dickens... In one story, she discovers that a girl in the neighborhood had spent the cold night out of doors, reading Hans Christian Andersen disguised by the cover of Chairman Mao's collected sayings. Typical of Ping's lyrical sensibility, one registers this as a reflection of the revolution's tyranny, yet one is also shown a fittingly fable-like image of the girl seated beneath a streetlight, 'her hair and shoulders covered with frost.' Perhaps most astonishing was Ping's 'Chinese Toilet,' in which appear latrines, cuspidors, porcelain chamber pots and, luxury of luxuries, the private toilet. How many writers have the skill to take a potentially distasteful subject and turn it into an intelligent, engaging, and sometimes riotous study of an entire culture in the midst of upheaval? This writer can - with great success." - Bernard Cooper, author of My Avant-Garde Education: A Memoir

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