- About the Book
"Evocative...The Emperor of Shoes underscores the extent to which the promise of economic opportunity still moves people across great distances on our planet... A novel] of our times..."--New York Times Book Review *A Library Journal Best Debut of Summer 2018*From an exciting new voice in literary fiction, a transfixing story about an expatriate in southern China and his burgeoning relationship with a seamstress intent on inspiring dramatic political change 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?
Despite nods to recent Chinese history, Wise's novel stands on shaky ideological ground. Only through a relationship with a disadvantaged Chinese factory worker does his privileged American protagonist come to affirm what are understood to be Western values of equality and human rights, a plotline that risks reducing China and its problems to mere cultural props in a Western man's coming-of-age story.
—New York Times
—New York Times