Spirit Bridges by Li Mo
Winner of the 2019 North Street Book Prize for Creative Nonfiction & Memoir
"Spirit Bridges is a deeply moving and intimate chronicle of Li Mo's long journey to America. Born in China, on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, Li is the daughter of one of China's first woman journalists. She recalls her tumultuous early years, including her father's disappearance and subsequent execution by the government, through the eyes of a child.
"The mother is a daunting figure in this book: skillful, disciplined, terrifying, beautiful. She is awesome, seen through her daughter's eyes, wielding a power of performance and words to which the young Mo feels she cannot aspire. A wild, misfit girl, deeply rooted in the world of the senses, Li struggles painfully in school despite her mother's literary and journalistic achievements.
"After being smuggled out of China by her mother in a dangerous journey, she finds herself alone in Madrid by the time she is eleven, caring for three young brothers while her mother makes a first trip to the United States. She dreams of the day her mother will return to bring them to 'Gold Mountain'. Her mother's letters sustain her, promising a new life of ease and plenty, but once they have made the final journey, the reality of their life in a Lower East Side tenement is stark.
"Mo struggles for self-expression throughout her life—to find a language she can both speak and understand. Ultimately, she does find a use for words—the poetry of this memoir is testament to that. But she finds her voice also in the beauty and wonder of the natural world and through her own development as a visual artist:
'The blank paper was a cloud shifting...Painting became a healing language. Colors softened a world filled with dangerous warnings.'
"Spirit Bridges is a wild ride of changes in one woman's life—both internally and in the world around her. It is story of finding one's voice in a constantly shifting, sometimes terrifying world. Through it, we come to know a woman with a playful spirit and a keen longing for and sensitivity to beauty, pain, and joy."
Read an excerpt from Spirit Bridges (PDF)
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