Title: The Emperor of Shoes
Writer: Spencer Wise
Publishing House: Hanover Square Press
Date of Publication: June 5th 2018
Rating: 5 stars
‘’We’ve always been citizens of the world. No, that’s not true. We’ve always been outsiders. On the run.’’
Alex is at a crossroads. Working in his father’s factory in China, he comes in close contact with a country of paradoxes, secrets, traditions and constant unrest. In 2015, the steps towards change are small, uncertain and insufficient. Apart from his work duties, Alex has to navigate a tricky path. His father’s ruthless work ‘’ethic’’, his mother’s lectures on Jewish identity and his own wishes and perceptions. But he isn’t naive. He observes, understands and decides to be a part of the change. Ivy, a bright Chinese woman, helps him realise his role when uncertainty is the only certain influence in everyone’s lives.
Spencer Wise creates a beautiful story, guiding us through the journey of a young man from Boston in the alleys and canals of Guangdong, in Beijing’s legendary streets. From the technology of 2015 back to 1989, the days of Tiananmen and its open wounds. Ivy’s narration of the Massacre is haunting, hair-raising, one of the most exquisite passages I’ve ever read. He weaves a tale born of revolution seeds and Golem references, of the struggle between following your personal principles and carrying the heavy burden of your family and your father’s orders.
Seen through the eyes of Alex, a brilliant, sensitive, kind and very realistic character, this is a story of change, disillusionment, love and determination. A difficult, demanding subject, written with sensitivity, clarity and tenderness.
‘’It’s a bright moon outside, and from the window of my house I can see the skeletal grey of the factory, the banners draped like sashes and the deep artificial red of Mandarin characters demanding change, and I’m wondering how the fuck this Jewish kid from Boston could somehow wind up a YouTube hero in the Chinese Revolution.’’