This is the generation that will change China and the world: three hundred and twenty million young people, more than the entire population of the United States. Dahai, the son of a soldier who vents online curiosity and dissatisfaction, “reposting is power”; Xiaoxiao, hipster from the cold north who defies the rule that still today wants women to be married soon, before turning into scraps; Snail, crushed by a serious problem of addiction to online video games and motivated by the desire to leave the campaign; Fred, daughter of a Party man and a student of political science in the United States; Mia, a rebellious fashionista who gets an AK-47 tattoo and goes to the same clubs in Beijing where she plays Lucifer, an aspiring celebrity who leaves punk for pop and reality TV.
Born between 1985 and 1990, they did not know Mao, but the one-child policy determined the shape of their families. After a pampered childhood, the pressure starts early: they have to deal with scrupulous school discipline and fierce competition to succeed. Like kids from all over the world, they want to leave the house, find a job, and fall in love.
Alec Ash follows the six characters and their dreams with empathy: they are peers of his, their story is also his.
Alec Ash is a writer and editor living in China. He is author of Wish Lanterns (Picador, 2016), literary nonfiction about the lives of six young Chinese, a BBC Book of the Week reviewed widely and featured in this New York Times interview (中文).
Ash’s longform articles have appeared in NYRB, LARB, the Guardian, 1843 and Dissent among elswehere, as well as his China correspondence for The Sunday Times. He is Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel (read a Q&A about his editing work here).
Born in Oxford, UK, Ash studied English literature at Oxford University, where he edited The Isis magazine and hitchhiked to Morocco. On graduating he taught in a Tibetan mountain village in western China, before moving to Beijing in 2008 to learn Mandarin, returning in 2012 to writ .His work has appeared in the anthologies Chinese Characters (UC Press, 2012) and While We’re Here (Earnshaw Books, 2015), co-editing the latter from his old website the Anthill. He is also Asia Editor at Five Books, where has interviewed over sixty authors about their literary influences.