The Dissident

An intricately woven novel about secrets, love, art, and the chaos of everyday American life. Yuan Zhao, a celebrated Chinese performance artist and political dissident, has accepted a one-year artist’s residency in Los Angeles. He is to be a Visiting Scholar at the St. Anselm’s School for Girls, teaching advanced art, and hosted by one of the school’s most devoted families: the wealthy, dysfunctional Traverses. The Traverses are too preoccupied with their own problems to pay much attention to their foreign guest, and the dissident is delighted to be left alone–his past links with radical movements give him good reason to avoid careful scrutiny. The trouble starts when he and his American hosts begin to view each other with clearer eyes.

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Praise for The Dissident

  • Nell Freudenberger's ingenious first novel follows a Chinese dissident to Los Angeles — and marks the arrival of a major talent.

  • Even if you don't recognize a familiar spirit amid this eclectic bunch though chances are, you will Freudenberger's brisk, buoyant humanism will make you feel at home in the world.

    USA Today
  • Her novel gradually unfurls into that rare thing, a work of poetics itself, a meditation on the very nature of representation in art. The fact that she does it with such wit and compassion, such generosity of both mind and heart, is miraculous.

    Neel Mukherjee