Released on 02 June 2016.

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Wish Lanterns

Young Lives in New China

4.17 based on 183 ratings & 32 reviews on Goodreads.com

Synopsis

The youth are the generation that will change China. There are over 320 million in their teens and twenties, more than the population of the USA. Born after Mao, natives of a nation on the rise, they are destined to have an unprecedented influence on global affairs.

These millennials, offspring of the only child policy, face fierce competition and pressure to succeed. Dislocated from their country's tumultuous past, they are caught between tradition and modernity. Their struggles are also the same as those of young people all over the world: moving out of home, starting a career, falling in love.

Wish Lanterns tells the stories of six young Chinese. Dahai is a military child and a rebel; 'Fred' is a daughter of the Party. Lucifer is an aspiring superstar; Snail a country migrant addicted to online gaming. Xiaoxiao is a hipster from the freezing north; and Mia a skinhead fashionista from Xinjiang in the far west.

Alec Ash, a writer in Beijing of the same generation, has given us a vivid, gripping account of young China as it comes of age. Through individual lives, Wish Lanterns shows with empathy and insight the conflicts and challenges, dreams and wishes of China's - and the world's - future. It is a vibrant and intimate book, for readers of Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy.

In the media

At a time when the future of China is so important, it is surprising that so little is understood, outside the world of specialised studies, about the hopes and fears of those most likely to shape it: the roughly 200 million people in the People's Republic currently between the ages of 15 and 24. It is this conspicuous lacuna that Alec Ash's Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China seeks to fill. He does so by telling the stories of six young Chinese born between 1985 and 1990 from the time they entered the world practically up to the present day. His deft style, welcome restraint (he writes the lives of his subjects but does not comment on them or, with a couple of exceptions, appear himself) yet discreet sympathy for the travails of those who have plainly become close friends, make the stories more compelling than they might otherwise have been. Some idea of the predicament of China's young makes this book more valuable still
Standpoint
Alec Ash’s storytelling gift in Wish Lanterns: Young lives in new China is essentially a novelist’s. Vivid character portraits such as rockstar wannabe Lucifer, Mia the media diva or Snail the country mouse trying not to be a total loser in the urban minefield are drawn with a humane understanding of some tricky balancing acts achieved between aspiration and compromise, as these “one-child policy” millennials come of age
Times Literary Supplement
A masterfully crafted collection of interwoven portraits of six young Chinese. Three men, three women. Millennials born between 1985 and 1990. Their journeys from childhood, balancing parental expectations against personal desires, hopes, dreams, achievements and stumbles . . . through the telling of these six stories, Ash cleverly weaves information about demographics, government policies, political history, as well as social and cultural trends . . . The richness of Ash's book is in the character development, the details of everyday life, dreams, frustrations, and contradictions of these particular individuals. Ash enters their worlds as a peer (he is their same age) and he's a sensitive listener, reporter, and storyteller
LA Review of Books