Kirkus Reviews QR Code
VINE BASKET by Josanne La Valley


by Josanne La Valley

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-547-84801-3
Publisher: Clarion Books

In a remote corner of China, a Uyghur girl faces government oppression and family troubles.

Mehrigul’s people live on a land they call East Turkestan, located south of Russia, north of Tibet and east of Pakistan. For centuries, their lives had been defined by the Kunlun Mountains and the Taklamakan Desert as they eked out a living strong in cultural traditions. Now under the control of the Chinese government, they are being forced off their mineral-rich land, and girls are sent to work in factories far to the south. Mehrigul has a gift for weaving baskets—as does her beloved grandfather—and when an American woman spots a purely decorative one she has woven to decorate the market cart and offers to buy more, Mehrigul sees a way to preserve her family farm and continue her schooling. In her debut novel, La Valley paints a memorable picture of this faraway people. Mehrigul’s efforts to weave baskets that are beautiful rather than functional fill the pages with absorbing detail and poignancy. She prays that her hands “might make beautiful work” and that like the bamboo vine she “must learn to bend but not break.” Her mother’s withdrawal and her father’s alcoholism and gambling are countered by her steadfast determination to maintain her self-worth.

A haunting tale of artistic vision triumphing over adversity.

(map, note from Mamatjian Juma of Radio Free Asia, afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)