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"Part love story, part father-son fable, part dark initiation, this powerful debut novel wonderfully brings into focus the ways we are all interconnected in a complex and global world."- Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master's Son
Spencer Wise ia an exciting new voice in literary fiction. His debut The Emperor of Shoes has already generated an immense amount of publishing industry buzz. Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in southern China, where his father runs their family-owned shoe factory. Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, but as he explores the plant's vast floors and assembly lines, he comes to a grim realization: employees are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex's own father is engaging in bribes to protect the bottom line. When Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy, his sympathies begin to shift. She is an embedded organizer of a pro-democratic Chinese party, secretly sowing dissonance among her fellow laborers. Will Alex remain loyal to his father and his heritage? Or will the sparks of revolution ignite? Deftly plotted and vibrantly drawn, The Emperor of Shoes is a timely meditation on idealism, ambition, father-son rivalry and cultural revolution, set against a vivid backdrop of social and technological change.
Originally from the Northshore,Wise comes from a long line of shoemakers dating back many generations to the shtetls in Poland. To research his book, Wise lived at a dormitory in a shoe factory in South China where the novel takes place. A graduate of Tufts University and the University of Texas at Austin, he received his Ph.D.in creative writing at Florida State University. He has worked in the editorial departments at Sports Illustrated and Time Out New York. His work has appeared in Narrative magazine, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Florida Review, and New Ohio Review. He is the winner of the 2017 Gulf Coast Prize in nonfiction. Wise now teaches at Florida State University and lives in Tallahassee.
"Spencer Wise's The Emperor of Shoes is the most complex, nuanced, character-rich first novel I have ever read. It is utterly original in portraying a twenty-first century Jewish diaspora with an accompanying empathy for China's grassroots aspirations. Wise comes to us fully-flighted as a master stylist and a compelling storyteller."-- Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
"There is a looking glass through which we'd usually rather not peer, one whose vista reveals the human, social and political costs paid overseas so that we can enjoy our low-cost lifestyle at home. When Spencer Wise, in his debut novel The Emperor of Shoes, directs our gaze, however, we see not only the dangers and exploitations of such a system, but also the hopes, dreams and delicate relationships that make it work and that must be risked if change is possible. Part love story, part father-son fable, part dark initiation, this powerful debut novel wonderfully brings into focus the ways we are all interconnected in a complex and global world."- Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master's Son
"Wise has written a funny, illuminating page turner of a novel about an American father and son and a shoe factory in China. The Emperor of Shoes is heartbreakingly personal, timely and political, written with plenty of Yiddish and humor. 'Made in China' the label says, but few of us have any idea what that means. Through unforgettable characters and dire circumstances, Wise shows us factory life and politics, ultimately pointing us in the direction of the possibility for a better future."-Bethany Ball, author of What to Do About the Solomons