Israel-China Cultural FestivalFor the last couple of months it’s seemed to me it’s been all China all the time. Without venturing out of  San Francisco.

Part of this was due to the Israeli Consulate’s Israel-China Cultural Festival throughout June. I was involved in  some of the planning and execution of this community-wide series of events that ranged from lectures to films to children’s story to a final banquet. The opening “ceremony” featured an exhibit on Dr. Ho Feng Shan, a Chinese consul in Vienna in the 1930s who drafted transit documents for Jews trying to escape the Nazis with few places to go. Sometimes called the “Chinese Schindler,” he’s been honored posthumously among Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. His daughter, Manli Ho, a journalist and the curator of the exhibit, presented an excellent lecture about her father. Manli and her husband, John Wood, have become friends of the family both here and in Beijing.

One week I went from a lecture on Kaifeng Jews, accompanying an exhibit I’d sent around the country for the Sino-Judaic Institute, one night and to the opera “Nixon in China” the next. While the two couldn’t be more distinct in subject matter and delivery, at least they had China in common! The staging at the San Francisco Opera included an opening scene depicting clouds out of which Air Force One emerges–with “Nixon” gazing out a plane window–and lands in Beijing.

When this “happened” on stage, I could feel myself  tearing up. Bizarre. But, even though the Beijing airport has evolved since that time and I really don’t identify at all with the late President and Pat Nixon, I must assume the emotion came from the years of our family identification with China and how I feel when I land in Beijing to visit Jonathan and Amy, neither of whom were born by the time of Nixon’s trip. Anyway, the opera is a dramatized but sobering look at a time I remember well. A buffoonish Henry Kissinger is a prominent character. I’d forgotten his ladies’ man reputation, which the Chinese in the opera tease him about. This trip was in February 1972, a few months before the Watergate break-in that ultimately ended Nixon’s career. I was never a Nixon fan, but one has to give the former anti-Communist witch hunter credit for reopening ties with China.

With the kids there, it’s not as if China is ever far from my mind. And my writing mind, too. I’m pleased to announce that I sort of, kind of completed a draft of  The Lost Torah of Shanghai, a sequel to After the Auction. It’s still going to take a while to really get together (and my developmental editor Alan Rinzler hasn’t weighed in on the manuscript yet), but I’m a whole lot further than I was a month ago. Attention, readers: Lily, Simon and Ruth are back.

The China immersion month certainly helped. Especially when it was over, and I had time to write everyday for a while (like writers are supposed to do).


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