The best kind of historical fiction is the kind that sweeps you up in its story and characters, but teaches you something about the world in the process. Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom, the second novel in The Sino-American Tales trilogy, by Li Bo (April, 2017) is the kind of novel that achieves this in spades.
Amanda Simpson, Librarian
4 out of 5 Stars
… the characters, writing, and historical accuracy will make it a great addition to library collections
“It is a great historical novel, and I believe your target audience will thoroughly enjoy this story.”
Early review by anonymous Amazon Editorial Reader
Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom
By Li Bo
CreateSpace, $2.99, 260 pages, Format: eBook
Star Rating: 5 / 5
Jason Brandt is living in an age of uncertainty. He has found and married his love, Black Jade. He searched long and far for her; her previous marriage to a warrior-soldier yielding a young child named Mei-Ling. Jason and Jade’s marriage has led to the birth of a young boy named William. The whereabouts of Wu are unknown in the wake of the war between Manchu and Taiping. Jason is laboring as a journalist in an ever-evolving world. He wants to bring his family to America; his wife barely survived an attack on an orphanage that was spurred on by ignorance and racial bias. China is chock full of danger. Jason decides to head back to his birth home and reconnect with his father. His opportunities are increasing as his documentation of China and its people has been lauded by none other than Mark Twain, who begins a correspondence with Jason. Jason and his brood set off on an arduous but beautiful journey to the United States. The beauty is sullied by the hatred spewed at the Chinese in San Francisco as the immigrants are utilized as cheap labor by ruthless corporate leadership. The natives see the new arrivals as threats and ripe for oppression. Jason’s work as a journalist leads him to reconnect with Wu and assist him in rebuilding his life. The journey home is threaded through with encounters with Phineas Fogg and his wife, who are endeavoring to travel around the world in 80 days in a balloon, and Jason also finds a financial opportunity with a financier who seeks information about China. The meeting with the financier in New York City is filled with promise for the future if all goes well. Mark Twain offers sage advice in regards to safety in Jason’s mixed marriage. Black Jade finds a niche in teaching language to kids, while Jason’s writing covers the mistreatment of the Chinese as replacement workers. The husband and wife begin to team up as lecturers, narrating their lives for mass consumption. Jason reconciles with his father, and his family adjusts to life in the United States. But will they be happy in their new environment?
Beyond the Heavenly kingdom is a worthwhile follow-up to The Heavenly Kingdom, a continuance of the adventure-filled romance. The reader is guided on a tour of the post-Civil War landscape, the newcomers brimming with awe and amazement at the sights. The beauty in some cases obscures the hard truths lying below the surface. The conditions highlighted on both continents are at times hard to read about but important nonetheless. This book is about love, acceptance, and endurance. A great sequel!!
Reviewed by Philip Zozzaro
“Beyond The Heavenly Kingdom” is a book that teachers could use as a supplement in a Human services course about diversity or a World Cultures course.
October 29, 2017
Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom is the second book in a series set in the mid-nineteenth century and follows Tienkuo: The Heavenly Kingdom, which traced the lives of Jason Brandt; his wife, Black Jade; and his scholar friend Wu Sek-chong during the Chinese Civil War. In this second novel, Brandt and Black Jade travel from Shanghai to Boston in the years following the American Civil War. Americans of that era, increasingly anxious about competition from lower wage Chinese immigrants, demanded an end to all immigration from China, which culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
In this novel inspired by Mark Twain’s travel memoir Innocents Abroad, Brandt, a Shanghai-based American journalist, imagines writing a book that chronicles his own travels. He and Black Jade journey to Boston, where his father, a Christian missionary, lives. On the journey, Brandt and Black Jade learn of the Troy Female Seminary, a pioneering girls’ school in Upstate New York, and dream of opening a similar school in China. Along the way, they encounter actual historical figures—including President Grant, Mark Twain, and Senator Charles Sumner—as well as literary characters such as Phileas Fogg.
Travel with them as they come to grips with a changing world that shares many parallels with our own.
About the Author
Steven Leibo, who writes fiction under the pen name of Li Bo, is a professor of modern international history at the Sage Colleges in New York. In addition, he is an associate in research at the Fairbank Center on Chinese Studies at Harvard University. His honors include being named a Fulbright scholar and election to the National Committee on US-China Relations. He is the author of Tienkuo: The Heavenly Kingdom and Transferring Technology to China: Prosper Giquel and the Chinese Self-Strengthening Movement.