Steven Leibo, Ph.D., the Sherman David Spector Professor of Modern International History & Politics at The Sage Colleges, recently published Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom, a sequel to his first novel Tienkuo: The Heavenly Kingdom (2001), about aspiring journalist Jason Brandt, his wife Black Jade and their friend Wu Sek-Chong during the 19th century Chinese civil war.
In the new novel – partly inspired by Mark Twain’s travelogue The Innocents Abroad – Brandt and Black Jade travel from Shanghai to America after the American Civil War. Over the course of their journey, they encounter notable figures from American history, including Russell and Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, Mark Twain, General and then President U.S. Grant and Senator Charles Sumner.
Emma Willard and the Sages are important characters in the historical novel that in part is set at the Troy Female Seminary (Russell Sage College, like Emma Willard School, is a legacy institution of the Troy Female Seminary). In Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom, the main characters decide to establish a school similar to Emma Willard’s in Shanghai even as they explore the tensions that eventually resulted in the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, America’s first formal closing of the immigration door to a specific group.
Leibo, who is well known within academic circles for his scholarly writings on the relationship between Asia and the West, began writing fiction after years of using novels and films in his classes as a complement to textbooks and primary sources. His goal is to write historical fiction that fulfills his primary objective to teach, but that also helps readers connect more personally and emotionally with long ago, far away events.
“I write because I like to write,” he said. “I am already immersed in the third of what I envision as a trilogy of books called The Sino-American Tales.” Read more about Professor Leibo’s thoughts on teaching, writing and publishing on his blog, Leibo’s World Watch and visit his Author Page on Amazon.