Guest Post: Dori Jones Yang–Aren’t the Mongols Bad Guys?

Dori Jones Yang is celebrating the release of Son of Venice, the sequel to her YA historical novel Daughter of Xanadu.  She stopped by the virtual offices  to set the record straight about the Mongols.   

Weren’t the Mongols Bad Guys? by Dori Jones Yang

Imagine a cartoon image of a horde of Mongol horsemen. Galloping on black horses, fierce and ferocious, they are invading a village, eager to rape and pillage.

The Mongols, history teaches us, were barbarians, vicious and cruel, destroyers of all that is good and civilized.

So why on earth did I choose a Mongol as the main character of my novel, Daughter of Xanadu, and the chief love interest in the sequel, Son of Venice? Who would fall in love with a Mongol?

In college, I majored in European history, and the Mongols were remembered as “Tartars” who decimated Hungary and Poland and subjugated Russia for centuries. But any good student learns that every set of people has its own take on history.

The story of the Mongols was mostly written by the people they conquered: the Russians, the Chinese, the Persians. The Mongols were definitely less “civilized” than all these peoples. When they began their conquests, they were nomadic herdsmen with no permanent settlements, no architecture, no written language. They lived in tents and spoke a guttural language no one else could understand. With no farming or manufacturing, they had to raid settled areas to get modern goods: stirrups, swords, fabrics, dishes.

Most of the horror stories about the Mongols are true. In retrospect, it seems almost impossible that Genghis Khan and his primitive hordes could have conquered most of the known world. They did it with “shock and awe” – swooping in on surprise attacks with such ferocity and cruelty that settled people were terrified of them. When one town resisted, Genghis Khan ordered his troops to massacre them with such horrific brutality that the next town would choose to surrender rather than face such a rampage. The Mongol troops cut one ear off each victim and collected them in bags as a way of counting the dead. They stacked up skulls to make sure no one would resist them in the future. The word “horde” even comes from Mongolian!

So it surprised me to read Marco Polo’s book. When he arrived in China, it was ruled by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Khubilai Khan. Marco would have heard these same horror stories from his father’s generation, who lived through Mongol attacks on Europe. And yet, Marco himself wrote nothing but positive things about Khubilai Khan: about his luxurious palaces, his glorious gardens, his large family, his lavish banquets. Marco Polo might as well have been a paid PR guy for the Mongols. Why?

It turns out the Mongol conquests were so swift that they gained control of almost all the land from Russia to China in just two generations. By the time Marco Polo got to China, the Mongols had settled into Chinese-style palaces and were living peaceful, opulent lives. They were commissioning art and poetry, learning good governance, and encouraging trade. They established an Empire that lasted over one hundred years, and most of that time they were not barbarian or brutal at all.

Most of us don’t think of our own people as bad guys. We Americans certainly don’t see ourselves that way – and the Mongols didn’t either. In their own legends, they were heroic, conquering more powerful kingdoms with brilliance and courage and then ruling them wisely.

In my novels, I wanted to make that point. To Emmajin, who grew up in the court of her grandfather, Khubilai Khan, the Mongols were the good guys.

You can find out more about the Mongols and my books at www.dorijonesyang.com.


Thank you, Dori!

You can learn more about Dori by visiting her website.

You can purchase both Daughter of Xanadu and Son of Venice from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

Interview with Amanda Usen, Author of Luscious and Giveaway!

 

Amanda Usen is the author of Luscious, a sexy romp through Italy, featuring yummy food and star-crossed lovers.  Amanda dropped by the virtual offices for a chat about her book.  After the interview, enter for your chance to win a copy of Luscious!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Amanda Usen] Pastry chef, word geek, romance writer, mom of three, caffeine addict, hot chef lover – all at the same time, not necessarily in that order!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Luscious?

[Amanda Usen] Chef heroine Olivia Marconi is balanced on the knife-edge of a major meltdown. Her marriage is over. She hates her job. Her two best friends have fallen in love with each other. She wants to start over, but first she has to go to Italy and tell her parents she doesn’t want to run the family restaurant anymore. Sean Kindred rejected Olivia’s indecent proposal while she was still married, but now that she’s free, he’s determined to take her up on her offer. Wherever. Whenever. Italy would be perfect. Luscious is the story of star-crossed lovers searching for a new beginning while eating amazing food, drinking fantastic wine and making incredible love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Amanda Usen] I was sitting in a doctor’s office editing the first draft of Scrumptious. When the doctor came in and learned I was a chef, he started telling me about his fabulous vacations at a cooking school in Italy. Villa Farfalla was born! A cooking school/spa/vineyard in Verona, Italy seemed like the perfect place for the next book. I knew Olivia, the restaurant owner from Scrumptious, would be the main character. Since she made a pass at her divorce lawyer and got shot down in the first book, it made sense that he would become her love interest in the second book. The storyline fell into place in my subconscious and was born, page by page, on the computer screen. There was a LOT of coffee involved in the writing of Luscious and more wine than I will ever admit.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Olivia?

[Amanda Usen] Hungry for love!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three ingredients Olivia would never, ever use?

[Amanda Usen] Strawberries, inferior quality olive oil, box wine

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things that Sean would never have in his bedroom?

[Amanda Usen] Best question ever! It’s going to take me ages to answer because I keep mentally trying on items and giggling. Okay…deep breath… a television. No hero I write will ever spend his time in the bedroom watching TV. Mementos from other women; it’s always been Olivia for Sean. Pajamas. No explanation needed. ;-)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Amanda Usen] I belong to the Western New York Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America. I’m constantly inspired by the hard work of my colleagues, and I’m grateful to the authors who write books that make me reach deeper and work harder to write my own stories. Food plays a big part in my books. I met my husband in culinary school, and he’s my own, personal, hot chef hero. He cooks, cleans and loves to play with our kids – now that is inspiring! I love to read the cookbooks of Maida Heatter, Nancy Silverton and Tish Boyle. I love to listen to the music of Adele, Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift. Growing up, I read all of Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books, Crystal Singer books and contemporary romances. I constantly seek inspiration from life; it’s the way I stay creative.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Amanda Usen] My three Cs: Coffee, Computer, Chair!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Amanda Usen] Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren, but her BDSM erotica isn’t for the faint of heart or the conservative of religious or sexual morals! Reisz is just such a great writer that it was impossible not to be pulled into her world of complicated and unforgettable characters.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Amanda Usen] One book? One book? When I was a child, I devoured books, one after the other. I was voracious. Insatiable. One book? Okay…Timothy and Two Witches by Margaret Storey. In the book, the good witch grows a petit four tree out of a stump after lunch, and the diminutive desserts have the characters’ names on them. In the forest, elves make hot chocolate that is the perfect temperature to warm your belly. Who would not be captivated by a book like that? I still have it, and my girls have both read it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Amanda Usen] I love to read. I was a romance reader long before I started writing, so I’m always in the middle of a book. I get to yoga as often as possible to help correct laptop-hunch. Since it’s summer, we take the kids swimming and to lots of parks. We love to cook with vegetables from the garden and make summer cocktails with the mint and lemon balm that run rampant in the flower beds. WNY summers are precious, so we spent quite a bit of time sitting in the front yard, watching the neighborhood kids and dogs chase each other around in circles, and waiting for the Mr. Softy truck to come down the street!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Amanda Usen] I love to talk about romance, writing and recipes on my blog Writer. Chef. Romantic. http://www.amandausen.com/

I can also be found on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/amandausen and Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/AmandaUsen

Thanks for having me here at Manga Maniac Cafe today! I love that you have “geek” in your tagline. I’ve always described myself that way, although I’m more of a barefoot, bookworm, sits-in-the-front-row, studies-for-every-test, hates-curling-my-hair kind of geek. I always have a book in my purse for emergencies. Speaking of books, what’s your current favorite? For the chance to win a copy of Luscious, comment below and tell me what you are reading!

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!

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Manga Review: La Quinta Camera–The Fifth Room by Natsume Ono

 

Title: La Quinat Camera – The Fifth Room

Author: Natsume Ono

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 978-1421532196

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

An apartment in Italy. In four of the rooms live four single men with singular personalities. Into this peculiar ménage steps an exchange student, the new tenant of the fifth room. Brought together by chance, friends by choice, they pursue their dreams together as the days drift gently by.

Review:

Now, this is a treasure!  I don’t know why I let this book linger so long in the TBR pile, because it deserved to be read the second I received it.  Told through vignettes, La Quinta Camera follow the daily challenges and adventures of the tenants of an Italian apartment house.  Massimo, the owner, rents rooms to his best friends, and also hosts foreign exchange students for the local language school.  The story starts with Charlotte, who is having a Really Bad Day.  She has lost her bag, which had her money and the directions to the room she’ll be staying during her time in Italy.  Her first day in Italy isn’t going well!  As she meets friendly people willing to give her a hand, she begins to have a Really Good Day.  I loved this introduction to the characters, and I felt that I was getting to know them along with Charlotte.  By the end of the book, I was sad that our visit to Italy had drawn to a close.

The subsequent chapters build on the friendships and personality quirks of Massimo and his tenants.  This is an understated book.  There are no battles to the death, no political machinations, hardly any action of any kind.  And that is what sets La Quinta Camera apart.  This is a completely character-driven book, and it’s those characters that make it compelling.  As they go about their daily lives, facing the same challenges we all face, they become living, breathing beings.  Will Charlotte be able to make a life for herself in the country she has grown to love?  Will Luca get over his crush?  Will Cele make it to his own birthday party?  Will Massimo be able to find an inner peace as his life, and the lives of his tenants, continues to change and evolve? 

I had a hard time putting this book down, and when I reached to last page, what I really wanted were more!  Ono’s quirky, whimsical art was perfect for this book.  La Quinta Camera is an underrated gem, one that I am grateful I was finally able to enjoy.

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by publisher