Democracy’s Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan is a new book by Richard Madsen. Madsen was formerly ordained in the Maryknoll Order which brought him to Taiwan in the late 1960s. He later left the order for an academic career. He is currently Professor of Sociology at the University of California.
Democracy’s Dharma studies four religious groups in Taiwan. Three of them are Buddhist: Fo Guang Shan (佛光山), Tzu Chi (慈濟) and Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山). The other is the Taoist group of Xingtian Temple (行天宮). It is based on the thesis that these groups have contributed to the development of democracy and civil society in Taiwan. Robert Green has reviewed the book in the July 2008 Taiwan Review.
The Foreigner: A Novel is the debut novel of Francie Lin. She lived in Taiwan in 2001-2002 on a Fulbright Fellowship. It has got some very positive reviews. I have earlier noted Columbia University Press’s series of translations of Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan including A Thousand Moons on a Thousand Rivers. However, there are actually very few original works of fiction in English that are set in Taiwan.
Here is the synopsis from the publisher’s website:
Emerson Chang is a mild mannered bachelor on the cusp of forty, a financial analyst in a neatly pressed suit, a child of Taiwanese immigrants who doesn’t speak a word of Chinese, and, well, a virgin. His only real family is his mother, whose subtle manipulations have kept him close–all in the name of preserving an obscure idea of family and culture.
But when his mother suddenly dies, Emerson sets out for Taipei to scatter her ashes, and to convey a surprising inheritance to his younger brother, Little P. Now enmeshed in the Taiwanese criminal underworld, Little P seems to be running some very shady business out of his uncle’s karaoke bar, and he conceals a secret–a crime that has not only severed him from his family, but may have annihilated his conscience. Hoping to appease both the living and the dead, Emerson isn’t about to give up the inheritance until he uncovers Little P’s past, and saves what is left of his family.
The Foreigner is a darkly comic tale of crime and contrition, and a riveting story about what it means to be a foreigner–even in one’s own family.
The final book in this short list is Humanity At Stake by Abraham Young. The book is based on a discussion about the status of Taiwan between a Chinese, Taiwanese and a Taiwanese American. It got a very positive review from Michael Turton and also a good review by Bradley Winterton in the Taipei Times. Winterton wrote, “This is an admirable book. If ignorance about Taiwan is as extensive in the US as the author claims it is, then the sheer accessibility of this little publication is greatly to its advantage.”
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon.com affilliate links.