...bracingly forthright ... [Kan's] is, in short, a true-life Horatio Alger tale, albeit one with distinctively Chinese, 21st-century and feminist elements ... Her account has much of value to offer us as we seek to understand how China has been changing and look for help in explaining these shifts to others. Under Red Skies follows on the heels of several recent English-language books about Kan’s generation, but, unlike those, it has actually been written by a member of the complicated cohort in question. This gives a fresh feel to its handling of by-now familiar topics, like the tension produced when a jingoistic education is confronted with a longing to participate in global popular culture. She isn’t the first to describe the attitude of many Chinese of her age, who feel resentment toward certain countries for bullying China in the past even as they adore those countries’ cultural exports, from episodes of The Big Bang Theory to the latest Japanese manga. But she handles this discussion particularly well. While admiring Kan’s book, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that she sometimes jumbles her facts about periods before her teenage years ... Despite its occasional missteps, there is much to admire in Under Red Skies. It’s enjoyable to get to know Kan on the page; she tells moving family tales as well as poignant personal stories, and serves as an engagingly candid guide to the fascinating generation she is a part of.
A heartfelt introduction to China’s recent history—and a firsthand dispatch from its millennial generation, a perspective all too rare in English-language publications. Her book is an important reminder that, even at a time of repression under Xi Jinping, China’s political and social evolution remains a process in motion, with many individuals—young and old, powerful and powerless—hoping to move their country in a different direction ... Ms. Kan’s stories reflect the power of—and resistance to—the ruling Chinese Communist Party ... Ms. Kan gives readers reason to hope that more first-person accounts from China’s millennial generation will become widely available. For those seeking to understand the future of China and U.S.-China relations, voices like hers are an essential part of the conversation.