Under Cover: National Book Award Winner Comes to Newport Library

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ambitionThe world is a big place. As we sit in our own relative stability, we can often forget that there are whole societies out there, still going through a massive cultural shift, redefining what success, responsibility, and a sustainable social model look like.

While the United States went through its own adolescence fairly early on, when looked at in the scope of our nation’s place in world history, many much more mature, old-world countries are only now beginning to come into their own.

From our Starbucks-sipping, capitalistic, rags-to-riches seat at the world table, it can be hard to wrap our heads around the climate in a place like China, where the social status of one’s ancestors is perhaps the biggest determining factor in how far up the ladder of success one is able to climb.

In order to understand the mentality of one of the biggest players in the new global economy, we must first be able to understand, not only where they stand today, but where they have come from, and how as a nation, they are currently striking a balance between the rise of individuality, and the governmental push to keep communism in place.

In the newest installment of the Witte Lecture Series, the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation will present Evan Osnos, as he discusses his book, “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China,” the 2014 National Book Award winner for non-fiction.

Evan Osnos
Evan Osnos

Osnos, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, is somewhat of an expert in Chinese culture. He spent 2005-2013 as a Beijing-based journalist, both for the Chicago Tribune and The New Yorker Magazine.

As the China correspondent for The New Yorker, Osnos regularly filed posts on a blog entitled, “Letter From China.” Through this venture, he chronicled events that capture the current social, political, and economic shift taking place in China.

Immersing himself in Chinese culture in his own everyday life has made Osnos uniquely qualified to offer commentary on the matter. In fact, The Washington Post has said that he “has portrayed, explained and poked fun at this new China better than any other writer from the West or the East.”

Now, in “Age of Ambition,” Osnos shares how China has grown in the preceding decades from a third-world country to the nation with the world’s second largest economy.

In the last 25 years, the Chinese people have seen their per-capita gross domestic product soar from $403 a year to a figure expected to pass $7,000 this year, but according to Osnos, the growth has not come without challenges.

He describes the current climate in China as being that of “a ravenous era.” As they begin to accept the notion that they can be the writers of their own destinies, the Chinese are searching for three things: wealth, liberty, and a unifying “something” to put their faith in.

In depicting an array of modern Chinese individuals, including an internet entrepreneur, a philosophy student, a political dissident, and the chief economist of the World Bank, Osnos offers viewpoints that cross economic, religious, and class lines, painting a portrait that is true to the makeup of a nation with an incredibly diverse population, still struggling to raise their individual voices.

Anyone interested in gaining a better perspective on one of our biggest global neighbors would benefit from attending Osnos’ lecture. He will visit the library on Friday, Feb. 27, and Saturday, Feb. 28, with ticket prices $35-$50.

Friday’s event begins at 6:30 p.m. with a wine reception followed by a lecture and Q&A, along with a subsequent book signing with dessert and coffee. On Saturday, attendees can enjoy a lecture and Q&A beginning at 2:00 p.m. that will also conclude with a book signing.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit nbplfoundation.org, or call (949) 548-2411.

Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected]

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