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University of Iowa News Release


April 22, 2009

Xu Xi reads for 'Live from Prairie Lights' April 30

Hong Kong essayist, fiction writer and editor Xu Xi, the Barbara Bedell Visiting Writer in the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, will read from her essay collection "Evanescent Isles" at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 30, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The free event will be streamed live on the University of Iowa Writing University Web site, and then will be available through the Writing University archive.

In "Evanescent Isles," Xu Xi writes of Hong Kong's vanishing culture and sensibility. She zooms in on her own life in the city -- on family, friends and her professional history as both business executive and author -- to focus on moments that enable wry observations of the shifting world around her. She casts her eye on films, pop stars and public transportation. She also muses on the political, without losing sight of the distinctly apolitical culture that evolved through the city's history as a former British colony and a Chinese "Special Administrative Region" after the 1997 "handover."

Justin Hill, author of "The Drink and Dream Teahouse," wrote: "Hong Kong is too fast-changing a place, too disparate and too uncertain a place to be pinned easily to the page, but Xu Xi manages to fit her Hong Kong into an eclectic, perplexing and deeply personal account of her home city."

And Shawn Wong, author of "American Knees," observed, "It would be wrong to label Xu Xi's 'Evanescent Isles' a memoir. She is more cultural anthropologist and traffic cop standing at the diasporic intersection of the most exciting city in the world -- Hong Kong -- as political idealism, capitalism, economic tsunami and linguistic imperialism converge on her, and there she is, waving her pencil with confidence and compassion."

Xu Xi ( is one of Hong Kong's leading English-language writers. An article in the New York Times called her a "pioneer writer in English from Asia." She is the author of six books of fiction and essays, and she has edited several anthologies of Hong Kong writing.

Her recent awards include the inaugural Man Asian Literary Award shortlist and an O. Henry Prize story. She is on the prose faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing, and also teaches writing internationally at various universities.

The Nonfiction Writing Program is a graduate program in the English Department of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Xu Xi,, Jan Weismiller,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),