Mr. Qiu grew up in a Shanghai neighborhood poor in amenities but rich in humanity. “You might not even have [indoor] toilet,” he says. “Whatever circumstance . . . [people there] were contented. Most families, they just sit outside, and they would talk: They tell stories, wave their fans—they enjoy life!”
Many memories of that time and place inform Mr. Qiu’s latest book, “Years of Red Dust: Stories of Shanghai,” a moving work of mainstream fiction published Tuesday by St. Martin’s Press.
The book’s stories, ostensibly oral anecdotes prompted by items chalked on a communal blackboard “newspaper,” recount incidents—sad, happy, comical, tragic—involving various residents from 1949 to 2005: ordinary folk whose lives are shaped by larger events, from the Korean War through the Cultural Revolution, from Nixon’s Chinese visit to the current financial boom.