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THE EMPEROR OF SHOES
About The Emperor of Shoes
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Hanover Square Press; Original edition (June 5, 2018)
Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in southern China, where his father runs their family-owned shoe factory. Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, but as he explores the plant’s vast floors and assembly lines, he comes to a grim realization: employees are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex’s own father is engaging in bribes to protect the bottom line.
When Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy, his sympathies begin to shift. She is an embedded organizer of a pro-democratic Chinese party, secretly sowing dissonance among her fellow laborers. Will Alex remain loyal to his father and his heritage? Or will the sparks of revolution ignite?
Deftly plotted and vibrantly drawn, The Emperor of Shoes is a timely meditation on idealism, ambition, father-son rivalry and cultural revolution, set against a vivid backdrop of social and technological change.
“There is a looking glass through which we’d usually rather not peer, one whose vista reveals the human, social and political costs paid overseas so that we can enjoy our low-cost lifestyle at home. When Spencer Wise, in his debut novel The Emperor of Shoes, directs our gaze, however, we see not only the dangers and exploitations of such a system, but also the hopes, dreams and delicate relationships that make it work and that must be risked if change is possible. Part love story, part father-son fable, part dark initiation, this powerful debut novel wonderfully brings into focus the ways we are all interconnected in a complex and global world.”-Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master’s Son
“Spencer Wise’s The Emperor of Shoes is the most complex, nuanced, character-rich first novel I have ever read. It is utterly original in portraying a twenty-first century Jewish diaspora with an accompanying empathy for China’s grassroots aspirations. Wise comes to us fully-flighted as a master stylist and a compelling storyteller.”—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
Born in Boston, Spencer Wise is a graduate of Tufts University and the University of Texas at Austin and worked in the editorial departments at Sports Illustrated and Time Out New York. His work has appeared in Narrative magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Florida Review, and New Ohio Review. He is the winner of the 2017 Gulf Coast Prize in nonfiction. Wise teaches at Florida State University and lives in Tallahassee.
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