Zhengguo, Kang

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Zhengguo, Kang


Married; has children. Education: Shaanxi Teachers University, M.A., 1987.


Office—East Asian Languages and Literatures, Yale University, P.O. Box 208236, New Haven, CT 06520-8236; fax: 203-432-6729. E-mail—[email protected]


Academic. Yale University, New Haven, CT, senior lecturer in Chinese, 1994—. Committee on Scholarly Communication with China, Chinese fellow for Scholarly Development Program, 1995.


Recipient of research grants; distinguished teachers award, Xi'an Jiaotong University, 1988.


Feng sao yu yan qing: Zhongguo gu dian shi ci di nu xing yan jiu (title means "A Study of Classical Chinese Poetry on Women and by Women"), Yun long chu ban she: Zong jing xiao Liu tong shu bao xing xiao you xian gong si (Taipei, Taiwan), 1991.

Nu quan zhu yi yu wen xue (title means "Feminism and Literature"), Zhongguo she hui ke xue chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1994.

Jiao zhi di bian yuan, Dong da tu shu gong si (Taipei, Taiwan), 1997.

Lu Meng (title means "Deer Dreams"), San min shu ju (Taipei, Taiwan), 1999.

Wo de fan dong zi shu: 1949-2003, Ming bao chu ban she you xian gong si (Hong Kong, China), 2004, translation by Susan Wilf published as Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.


Kang Zhengguo is an academic. He began his formal studies at Shaanxi Teachers University but was expelled in 1965 after being labeled as a reactionary element. After great hardships and conflict with the authorities for his desire to learn and read, he was able to complete a master of arts degree at the university. His thesis, however, was considered politically incorrect, and he was ultimately denied his degree. In 1994 he was granted a position at Yale University and eventually became a senior lecturer in Chinese at the university. He has published a number of books on women and literature in China.

In 2007 Zhengguo had his first book translated and published in English. Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China, which was translated by Susan Wilf, serves as his memoir of his experiences growing up in China. Originally published in Chinese in 2004 as Wo de fan dong zi shu: 1949-2003, the personal account starts with the author's childhood, growing up during China's Cultural Revolution, and covering the numerous negative encounters he has had with the Chinese government for not following their proscribed ideology in his quest for knowledge.

William Grimes, writing in the New York Times Book Review, described the memoir as "a rewarding read." Grimes went on to say that "Kang's tone is sardonic, wry, urbane. He relishes the particulars of his often horrific circumstances, the details of rural life and, above all, the strange contradictions of his society. Even at the height of the Cultural Revolution, small social spaces opened up, allowing people to breathe. An act of kindness here, a sneaky bit of deception there, and the inevitable inefficiencies and human weaknesses of those in charge contribute to an unusually complex picture of life in China in its most repressive period." Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush also called it "a wonderful book," adding that "the detailed coming-of-age accounts will capture teens interested in Chinese history and culture."

A contributor to Publishers Weekly found that the author's "rugged individualism takes his story beyond the usual narrative of persecution and hardship, making it an incisive, personal critique" of China. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews related that the memoir was "a haunting, frightening and ultimately inspiring story, told in sturdy, unadorned prose." Also writing in the New York Times Book Review, Judith Shapiro agreed that Confessions is a "gripping and poignant memoir." Shapiro summarized that the account "reveals new details about Chinese society during the Mao years, particularly about the peasant economy and the allocation of work points. But the memoir's main message is Kang's enduring passion for learning."



Zhengguo, Kang, Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China, translated by Susan Wilf, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.


Biography, fall, 2007, Diana Lary, review of Confessions, p. 717.

Booklist, June 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Confessions, p. 25.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007, review of Confessions.

New York Times Book Review, June 13, 2007, William Grimes, review of Confessions; June 24, 2007, Judith Shapiro, review of Confessions, p. 30.

Publishers Weekly, April 9, 2007, review of Confessions, p. 40.

Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2007, review of Confessions.


Yale University, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures Web site,http://www.yale.edu/eall/ (May 22, 2008), author profile.