Kaya Press 2017
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A Chinese American historian discovers six anonymous documents in Spanish and Chinese in places ranging from the archives of Imperial China to a rare book shop in Mexico City and constructs a hitherto unknown correspondence between the Chinese Ming Emperor Wanli and Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Difficulties in translation and the years-long, perilous voyages undertaken by conscripted letter couriers highlight the intensive labor and sheer serendipitous luck required to make this seemingly impossible 17th-century exchange possible. This reimagined history brings together the disparate histories of the Emperor, Cervantes, and the historian, united through time by their deep interest in literature, philosophy, politics, and the burden of demented mothers. As he did in his acclaimed previous novel, The Beginning of the East, Yeh continues to remap literary conventions. Layering documentary evidence, conflicting translations, and cultural contexts, Yeh sends ripples through the idea of historical fiction in the vein of Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino. Described as “a writer on a rampage, with an appetite for history,” by E.L. Doctorow, Yeh’s Stolen Oranges reimagines the relationships of the past and the present.