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About Spencer Wise: Spencer Wise was born in the North Shore of Massachusetts where people give directions relative to Dunkin’ Donuts franchises.
After attending Tufts University, he did community organizing in the South End. Then he followed a girlfriend to New York and worked at Time Out NY and Sports Illustrated for a number of years and kept writing stories. One of them he showed to his close friend at the Tavern on Jane, who set the story down and said, “You know, you don’t have to be a writer.” Scarred but undeterred, Wise returned to graduate school in creative writing at the University of Texas at Austin, finally earning a Ph.D. at Florida State University. He’s now an Assistant Professor at Augusta University in Georgia . He lives with his brilliant partner who rocked a beret with leopard trim for most of her childhood. Unsurprisingly, they have two cats.
His fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry can be found in journals such as Narrative Magazine, Gulf Coast, The Cincinnati Review, The Literary Review, and The New Ohio Review. He has been awarded the Gulf Coast Prize in nonfiction and fellowships to the Vermont Writer Studio and Napa Valley Writer’s Conference.
About The Emperor of Shoes: Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in a remote village in southern China, where his father runs a family-owned shoe factory. Lost and searching, Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, absorbing the generations-old secrets of the trade from his loving but neurotic father. As Alex explores the plant’s vast floors and assembly lines he comes to a grim realization: employers are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex’s own father is engaging in payoffs and bribes to protect the bottom line. Then he meets a seamstress named Ivy.
As Alex and Ivy grow close, Alex’s sympathies begin to shift to the Chinese workers, who labor under brutal conditions, stitching, sewing and cobbling shoes for American companies. But when Ivy’s past resurfaces, her broader goals become apparent. 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?
Drawing on his own family’s experiences, Spencer Wise explores the evolution of a precarious Jewish family empire as it struggles to adapt in a global landscape. 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 striking backdrop of social and technological change in contemporary southern China.