By Nell Freudenberger
(Ecco, Hardcover, 9780060758714, 448pp.)
Publication Date: August 2006
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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From the PEN/Malamud Award-winning author of Lucky Girls comes a bold, intricately woven first novel about an enigmatic stranger who disrupts the life of one American family.
Yuan Zhao, a celebrated Chinese performance artist and political dissident, has accepted a one year's artist's residency in Los Angeles. He is to be a Visiting Scholar at the St. Anselm's School for Girls, teaching advanced art, and hosted by one of the school's most devoted families: the wealthy if dysfunctional Traverses. But when their guest arrives, the Traverses are preoccupied with their own problems. Cece--devoted mother and contemporary art enthusiast--worries about the recent arrest of her son, Max. Unable to communicate with her husband, Gordon, a psychiatrist distracted by his passion for genealogical research, she turns to Gordon's wayward brother, Phil. Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old Olivia Travers is just relieved that her classmates seem to be ignoring the weird Chinese art teacher living in her pool house--at least until a brilliant but troublesome new student appears in his class.
The dissident, for his part, is delighted to be left alone. His relationship to the 1989 Democracy Movement and his past in a Beijing underground artists' community together give him reason for not wanting to be scrutinized too carefully. The trouble starts when he and his American hosts begin to see one another with clearer eyes.
A novel about secrets, love, and the shining chaos of everyday American life, The Dissident is a remarkable and surprising group portrait, done with a light, sure hand. Reviewing Lucky Girls, the Seattle Times praised Freudenberger's "merciless and often hilarious eye for family dynamics, and her equally sharp eye for cultures in collision." These talents and others are on full display here, as the author captures her characters in their struggles with art, with identity--and with one another. As the New York Times Book Review observed, "Young writers as ambitious--and as good--as Nell Freudenberger give us a reason for hope."
"Ambitious debut novel.... Its vivid characters and page-turning plot make it a more than commendable first novel."
"An impressive novel.lucid, unpretentious, and often witty.Freudenberger is the real thing."
"Ambitious, entertaining new novel. . ."
-Francince Prose, People Magazine
More than 150 writers from 40 events will gather in New York City for PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 28 – May 4, 2014.
For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org