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Book News: China Said To Blacklist Authors In Response To Hong Kong Unrest

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

In a move seeming designed to ramp up pressure on Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, Chinese authorities have detained one scholar and banned the books of eight writers, according to Reuters.

Guo Yushan, a think-tank founder known in the West for helping blind activist Chen Guangcheng escape house arrest in 2012, has reportedly been detained on charges of "causing a disturbance" — charges similar to those now faced by the poet Wang Zang. And while Guo hadn't made any public comments on the protests in Hong Kong, according to The Washington Post, news of his arrest comes as two apparent censorship orders have banned several authors perceived to support the protests.

On the blacklist are Taiwanese writer and film director Giddens Ko, Chinese-American historian Yu Ying-shih and Hong Kong TV host Leung Man-tao, among others.

In an op-ed published Monday, the Communist Party publication Global Times defended the alleged ban: "If these advocators of political dissident culture define themselves as reformers, they should take responsibility for maintaining mainstream politics, not jeopardizing the country's solidarity. If they insist on prioritizing opposing political ideas, they must prepare for pushback from society, which will be unpleasant in most cases."

Diverse Voices In Kids' Lit: The Guardian launched its "diversity in children's books week" on Monday with a list of what it considers the 50 best children's books published since 1950 that celebrate cultural diversity. The list, which ranges from books aimed at the early years up through teens, is just the latest instance in a blooming movement to include diverse voices in children's literature — a campaign reported on earlier this year by NPR's Bilal Qureshi.

Flipping Ahead

New in print (and screen)

Jake Halpern's Bad Paper is that rarest of birds: an expose on the failings of financial regulation, which also happens to feature a former bank robber for a lead and a scene with a polygamist wielding a machete. Apparently, it's all just part of the job when you're in the debt collection industry. Simply told, exhaustively researched and eminently compelling, Bad Paper is an unsettling peek into the hectic lives of unpaid loans — and those who try to collect on them. Oh, the places your debt will go!

Howard Jacobson's dystopic novel J drops in the U.S. on Tuesday — the same day the winner of the Man Booker Prize, for which the novel's been nominated, will be announced in the U.K. What better way to prepare for the announcement than by cramming the book in one sitting? Well, actually, there are a number of better ways. (See below for one option.) Not least because this book — a drama set decades into the future after a forgotten massacre of Jews — deserves its readers' full, unblinking attention.

For her memoir Without You, There Is No Us, Suki Kim dredges memories of her experiences in North Korea, where she taught at a small university. Emerging from her time teaching young men from elite families, Kim reports back on the hopes, the struggles and, yes, the paranoia of her life inside the hermit kingdom.

Events to watch out for

Tonight at 5:30 p.m. ET, the Man Booker Prize picks its winner. It's the first year that the prestigious international award for fiction has considered works by American authors. Reacquaint yourself with the shortlisted writers — who speak of the inspirations behind their books here — then tune in live for the broadcast on BBC.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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