Spencer Wise

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Spencer Wise  joins us this week. We’ll be chatting with Spencer about his debut book, The Emperor of Shoes (Harper Collins – Hanover Square Press; June 5, 2018).

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Spencer Wise’s current book, The Emperor of Shoes (HarperCollins/Hanover Square Press), was released June 5, 2018. He comes from a long line of shoemakers dating back many generations to the shtetls in Poland. To research the book, Spencer lived at a dormitory in a shoe factory in South China where the novel takes place.

Spencer 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.

Born in Boston, Spencer is a graduate of Tufts University. He attended graduate school in creative writing at the University of Texas at Austin, finally earning a Ph.D. at Florida State University. He stayed in Tallahassee and teaches at Florida State University. He was recently awarded a fellowship to attend the Vermont Writer Studio this summer.

EDITORIAL REVIEWS — The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise (Harper Collins – Hanover Square Press; June 5, 2018).

“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

“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

“A boisterous debut, Spencer Wise’s The Emperor of Shoes keenly evokes the contradictions of a rapidly evolving China: the ugliness and the beauty; the cynicism and the passion; the absurdity and the tragedy. With his energetic characterization and winning dialogue, Wise turns a sharp yet compassionate eye on the foibles of a not-so-innocent abroad. This is an accomplished, engaging novel.”-Molly Patterson, author of Rebellion

“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

“Fresh and innovative, Spencer Wise’s The Emperor of Shoes is the latest addition to the tradition of young-man fiction that starts with Bellow and Roth…I’ve taught for more than forty years; this is the best first novel I’ve ever read.”- David Kirby, National Book Award nominated author of The House on Boulevard Street

“Brimming with comedic genius, The Emperor of Shoes is a commentary on American naivete and willfully blind greed that speaks to our collective human history of oppression and inhumanity. Wise opens us up with humor then refuses to pull his punches. He remains hopeful — against diminishing odds — about love and the sacrifices we make in its name.”-Julianna Baggott, author of Pure and The Seventh Book of Wonders

“What Wise brings to a story of hot-button issues is a light hand, a mix of sensitive characters, a propulsive plot, and humor.”-Louisa Ermelino, Publisher’s Weekly

“Vividly rendered…a fascinating look at China’s race for economic growth.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Wise’s debut offers a fascinating look at contemporary China, but its greatest strength is the struggle between a hard-to-please father bent on preserving what he has worked so hard to build and a son who is trying to find his own way.”—Booklist

ABOUT The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise

From an exciting new voice in literary fiction, a transfixing story about an expatriate in southern China and his burgeoning relationship with a seamstress intent on inspiring dramatic political change…

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. –Harper Collins / Hanover Square Press

For more information, please see SpencerWiseAuthor.com. You can keep up with him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.