The Dissident: A Novel

Front Cover
Harper Collins, Aug 15, 2006 - Fiction - 427 pages
21 Reviews

From the PEN/Malamud Award-winning author of Lucky Girls comes a bold, intricately woven first novel about an enigmatic stranger who disrupts the life of one American family.

Yuan Zhao, a celebrated Chinese performance artist and political dissident, has accepted a one year's artist's residency in Los Angeles. He is to be a Visiting Scholar at the St. Anselm's School for Girls, teaching advanced art, and hosted by one of the school's most devoted families: the wealthy if dysfunctional Traverses. But when their guest arrives, the Traverses are preoccupied with their own problems. Cece—devoted mother and contemporary art enthusiast—worries about the recent arrest of her son, Max. Unable to communicate with her husband, Gordon, a psychiatrist distracted by his passion for genealogical research, she turns to Gordon's wayward brother, Phil. Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old Olivia Travers is just relieved that her classmates seem to be ignoring the weird Chinese art teacher living in her pool house—at least until a brilliant but troublesome new student appears in his class.

The dissident, for his part, is delighted to be left alone. His relationship to the 1989 Democracy Movement and his past in a Beijing underground artists' community together give him reason for not wanting to be scrutinized too carefully. The trouble starts when he and his American hosts begin to see one another with clearer eyes.

A novel about secrets, love, and the shining chaos of everyday American life, The Dissident is a remarkable and surprising group portrait, done with a light, sure hand. Reviewing Lucky Girls, the Seattle Times praised Freudenberger's "merciless and often hilarious eye for family dynamics, and her equally sharp eye for cultures in collision." These talents and others are on full display here, as the author captures her characters in their struggles with art, with identity—and with one another. As the New York Times Book Review observed, "Young writers as ambitious—and as good—as Nell Freudenberger give us a reason for hope."

  

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Review: The Dissident

User Review  - Bjwallington - Goodreads

"This was the second time an important moment in my life had been marked by a piece of performance art involving fish. ( How many people can write that sentence truthfully?)" Wonderful passages like ... Read full review

Review: The Dissident

User Review  - zespri - Goodreads

A chinese performance artist takes up a one year teaching position in a Los Angeles all girls school. That's enough of a plot line to keep me interested, and I enjoyed this novel a lot. The novel ... Read full review

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About the author (2006)

Nell Freudenberger's collection of stories, Lucky Girls, was a New York Times Notable Book and won the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2005 Freudenberger was the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award. She lives in New York City.

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