Synopsis of Research in Shanghai (May 27 - June 21) :
The Shanghai No. 3 Girl's High School is a historic and gothic treasure of Asia. Founded in 1892 by Methodist missionaries, the regal school now serves as a hallowed institution for China's daughters to receive a well-rounded education. Nancy Huang’s book, "Favorite Daughter," focuses on the school before the Cultural Revolution, back when it was the McTyeire Academy, and the determined young women who studied there. When Huang was younger, she lived in Shanghai and attended one of the three elite international schools in the city, and as a result is deeply familiar with life abroad, expat culture, Western-style schools in Asia, and the emotional realities of diaspora. As a Chinese-American woman, her youth in Shanghai was intimately connected to her upbringing in America. She recognizes that stories of diaspora aren't linear; they are circular, because there is always a return journey back to the Old Country through food, memory, or culture. In this way, Shanghai is a site of return and revival for her, and an essential component to this novel. Studies have repeatedly shown that countries with imbalanced sex ratios lead to women attending school at decreasing rates. In a country that is overwhelmingly male, Huang’s novel will draw real-world connections to the past and future. Confucius once said that an educated woman is a worthless woman, and China's culture is still intensely patriarchal; so following the lives and coded resistances of these young women is revelatory for her. In Shanghai, Huang will be operating under the legacy of writers like Jules Verne, Jenny Zhang, Lu Xun, Eileen Chang, and Isabel Sun, and she is dedicated to shining a light on a period when being a Chinese woman meant being cultivated to suffer.