We often hear about Canada's university graduates embarking on overseas adventures to teach English in China, Taiwan and Japan, but rarely do we hear about their stories and experiences. JoAnn Dionne's memoir is written from the in-depth journals she kept while she taught English to elementary students in the People's Republic of China. She takes a close look at the boundaries that are acknowledged and dissolved both in the classroom and beyond the school gates. These boundaries include the China's residents' fascination with Western culture, and the Chinese government's attempt to maintain a communist atmosphere. The change that occurs in China's politics and collective thinking, succumbing to Western influences, is interesting in its growing contradictions.
Dionne's memoir is humorous and startling, from the daily activities and life-altering adventures she encounters in a communist country. She profiles the varying personalities, insights and antics of her young students, as well as the adult local residents. These encounters give her a richer understanding of how the Chinese people interact with and interpret their own environment, and how they secretly feel about their government. The book is a reflection of her observations, conversations and emotions, while in a foreign place, as she struggles with her own foreign concepts.
Dionne organized her book launch on March 1, 2008, in a new art gallery called Dales in Chinatown, Victoria, BC. She is currently traveling across Canada, promoting her book in the independent bookstores. Little Emperors is a glimpse into the future of China, in the way that these young minds are being introduced to Western thinking, in a time when the Pan-Pacific movement continues to grow and strengthen. The book is also a message to Westerners about the censorship of the Chinese government, and the atrocities against basic human rights that still occur in that part of the world.