Conversations with Authors - Orville Schell with Elaine Pagels and Mark Danner (Online Event)

Saturday, March 20, 2021 - 4:00pm

Saturday, March 20th, 2021

Live • Online • 4:00pm PT

In conversation with Elaine Pagels and Mark Danner

A uniquely experienced observer of China gives us a sweeping historical novel that takes us on a journey from the rise of Mao Zedong in 1949 to the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, as a father and his son are swept away by a relentless series of devastating events.

It’s 1950, and pianist Li Tongshu is one of the few Chinese to have graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Engaged to a Chinese-American violinist who is the daughter of a missionary father and a Shanghai-born mother, Li Tongshu is drawn not just by Mao’s grand promise to “build a new China” but also by the enthusiasm of many other Chinese artists and scientists living abroad, who take hope in Mao’s promise of a rejuvenated China. And so when the recently established Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing offers Li Tongshu a teaching position, he leaves San Francisco and returns home with his new wife.

But instead of being allowed to teach, Li Tongshu is plunged into Mao’s manic revolution, which becomes deeply distrustful of his Western education and his American wife. It’s not long before his son, Little Li, also gets caught up in the maelstrom of political and ideological upheaval that ends up not only savaging the Li family but, ultimately, destroying the essential fabric of Chinese society.

Orville Schell is the director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. From 1996 to 2007 he was the dean of the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He has written ten nonfiction books on China and contributed to many publications, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation, Foreign Affairs, and The New York Review of Books. He is also an Emmy Award-winning producer for PBS, NBC Nightly News, and 60 Minutes. He divides his time between New York City and Berkeley, California.

Elaine Pagels is a preeminent academic whose impressive scholarship has earned her international respect. The Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, Pagels was awarded the Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Fellowships in three consecutive years. She is the author of Why Religion?, The Gnostic Gospels, Beyond Belief, and Revelations.

Mark Danner is a writer and reporter who has covered war and human rights for more than three decades, including conflict in Central America, Haiti, the Balkans, and the Middle East. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and other magazines. He is the author of a half dozen books, including The Massacre at El Mozote, Torture and Truth, Stripping Bare the Body and Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War. His work has been honored with a number of awards, including the National Magazine Award, three Overseas Press Awards, an Emmy, an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship and a Guggenheim. In 1999, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. He is the Class of 1961 Endowed Chair in Undergraduate Education at the University of California at Berkeley and the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard College.


Orville Schell photo by Brigitte Lacombe; Elaine Pagels photo courtesy of author; Mark Danner photo by Dominique Nabokov


My Old Home: A Novel of Exile Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593315811
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon - March 9th, 2021

Why Religion?: A Personal Story Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062368546
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - January 21st, 2020

Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476747774
Availability: Special Order
Published: Simon & Schuster - June 13th, 2017