Category Archives: Joel Shlian

Another Tiananmen Anniversary (June 4, 2013)


Once again, it’s June 4th and another anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre of 1989.

Hard to believe 24 years have passed since hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters were shot in the square and with those years, so much change.

Anyone who visits China today will see cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou that are more modern than most American cities where sophisticated residents dress in the most fashionable styles, drive brand new cars and carry the most up-to-date electronic devices.

More than 300 million Chinese have risen to the middle class and there are allegedly 83 billionaires in the Chinese parliament.

While the economy has embraced quasi-capitalism with a vengeance, the politics of one party rule has remained. Twenty-four years after a brief promise of democratic reform, the leaders’ aim to squelch any mass political protest is unwavering. Even though some of the new leaders installed in November had, as young men, expressed  sympathy with the short-lived student democracy movement of 1989, no one really expects any  announcement of regret about the massacre or  overruling  of the official verdict that the protests were a counterrevolutionary rebellion that had to be crushed.

To learn more about the events of June 4, 1989, read the award winning international thriller, Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah and Joel Shlian.



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WXEL July 4th and 5th REBROADCAST

WXEL’s Florida Forum radio show’s Forth of July special will re-air past interviews of local authors who have books they think will be great summer reading. Our interview will air on 90.7 FM Sunday  July 4 at 11am , and re-air Monday July 5 at 7pm.

The show streams LIVE, so anyone with access to the Internet can listen to it at the above date/times, by going to and clicking on the Listen Live button .

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UCF Book Festival 2010

Join us at the first UCF Book Festival. This inaugural event is being sponsored in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center at the University of Central Florida.

The 2010 UCF Book Festival will be held  April 16-17, 2010, at the UCF Arena in Orlando.

We will be on two panels – both in Psych 105  from 10:30 -11:20 am (Mysterious Women: Characters of Intrigue) and 11:45 -12:35 pm (Telling Stories- Adding to the Action). We’ll be talking about the novels we’ve written together including our Florida Book Award winning international thriller, Rabbit in the Moon. Deborah will also be talking about her newest thriller, “Dead Air+, co-written with her former UCLA colleague, Dr. Linda Reid.

There will be book signings after both panels. Hope to see you there!

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Twenty years since the Tiananmen Massacre

Today marks twenty years since Deng Xiaoping ordered the People’s Liberation Army to shoot down hundreds, if not thousands of peaceful protestors in Tiananmen Square. In the past two decades since, China has enjoyed enormous economic growth- mainly because Chairman Deng and his successors made a decision after the June 4, 1989 massacre that in order to retain centralized power, they would allow the people more economic freedom. The result has been a rising middle class that may be as large as 300 million and even a substantial number of super wealthy entrepreneurs who have all embraced Deng’s 1992 slogan that “to be rich is glorious”. The new focus on a more capitalist economy, however, has also meant an ever widening gap between rich and poor, with increased poverty in the countryside, weakening of the family unit as young people are forced to move from farms to cities seeking work, choking pollution, abusive police and many other negatives.

It is interesting that until very recently there were few obvious signs of protest akin to the short-lived 1989 student democracy movement. This has been primarily due to the fact that while allowing economic freedom, the government has kept a tight rein on political freedom.  For example, people who try to take local issues to provincial or central agencies are regularly detained in “black jails” where they may be tortured or at least strenuously persuaded to “forget” their concerns. Parents of victims of the Sichuan earthquake and tainted milk have been warned not to speak about this to the foreign press.

With the rise of the internet, government control has become much more difficult.. According to a NY Times article, surveys show that four of five university students still rely on China’s heavily censored media for their news. However, in a digital age when nearly 70,000 Chinese students are studying in the United States and roughly 163,000 foreign students study at Chinese universities, walls blocking information dissemination are porous. Within the country, despite 30,000 “cyber cops”, there are brave souls who regularly blog about government corruption and urge reform. In December, over 300 prominent Chinese citizens signed a petition they dubbed Charter 08 recommending the end of one party rule. According to Yang Jianli, a dissident jailed after participating in the 1989 protests and now living in exile in the US, the document garnered more than 10,000 signatures with real names and e-mail addresses before the government shut down the online website. Some of the initial signers have been jailed and many more are under police surveillance

Even with this kind of intimidation, Yang estimates that 100,000,anti-government protests occur annually in China. A growing number of lawyers like Gao Zhisheng who defended the Falun Gong have been willing to endure torture and jail.

All of the government pushback demonstrates the leaders’ real fears that serious democratic reform could mean the end of their hold on power. Since that day on June 4, 1989 when the PRC turned its guns on its people, there has been virtually no discussion of what actually happened in the square on the Internet or in textbooks.

The government continues to keep tight control of any information about what is officially called “the June 4 incident”. In March, mothers of students killed in the square appealed to the National People’s Congress to end the taboo against acknowledging the event not as a “political disturbance” but as a massacre.

Around that same time, Zhang Shijun, a former soldier who had participated in the massacre, posted a letter on the Internet  asking President Hu Jintao to “use his wisdom” to reevaluate Tiananmen,

And now, a just published secret memoir by moderate leader Zhao Ziyang, created while he was under house arrest, gives a disapproving account of  the bitter power struggle behind the scenes as the students occupied the square, the deep rivalries between reformists and hardliners in the leadership as well as the critical role Deng played in the decision to use force.

Young people born after 1989 know virtually nothing about this history. They are rightfully proud of the positive transformative accomplishments of their country since the tragic events of 1989. Maybe following today’s important anniversary, the Chinese government will finally decide to open the door, acknowledge the true facts, and then move on.

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Governor Crist and Secretary of State Browning award the Gold Medal


We returned home Thursday evening after a seven hour drive from Tallahassee. Wednesday night’s Florida Heritage awards ceremony, which included the Florida Book Awards Gold Medal winners, was quite special. After a successful book signing sponsored by the Tallahassee Museum, we were ushered into a “green Room” for snacks and pre-ceremony instructions, In addition to the Book Awards (“Rabbit in the Moon” won for Genre Fiction), legendary country singer/songwriter Mel Tillis and Harry Crews, prolific author of novels, short stories, essays and screenplays were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. Margery Kinnan Rawlings (her niece accepted for “Aunt Marie”) and Gene Patterson, Pulitzer Prize winning editor of the St. Petersburg Times, were among four Florida Folk Heritage Award winners. When it was our turn to pick up our award, we  had to squeeze out of our seats (several winners had brought en entourage of friends and family) and bolt onstage to smile for camera and shake the hands of Governor Charlie Crist and Secretary of State Kurt Browning. Governor Crist whispered that with a theme about China, “Rabbit in the Moon” couldn’t be timelier – that was very nice.

According to the program, “Florida Heritage Month is celebrated from March 15 to April 15 and is the time when [we] recognize the importance of our state’s culture and heritage as well as the contributions of individuals and organizations.” The Florida Book Awards is coordinated by the Florida State University Program in American & Florida Studies, and co-sponsored by the Florida Center for the Book; State Library and Archives of Florida; Florida Historical Society; Florida Humanities Council; Florida Literary Arts Coalition; Florida Library Association; “Just Read, Florida!”; Governor’s Family Literacy Initiative; Florida Association for Media in Education; Florida Center for the Literary Arts; Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America; and the Friends of FSU Libraries.

Even though we both wrote “Rabbit in the Moon”, we only received one gold medal between us. When we left the stage, the governor asked us who would be wearing it. “I’ll wear it now,” Deb said. “Joel can wear it on the drive home.” And he did!!

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“Rabbit in the Moon” book launch: standing room only!!

We had our book launch on Thursday, May 29th at the Borders Bookstore in Boca Raton. As you see from the crowd, it was standing room only!  We spoke about how we started writing novels and how we write together. Since the setting for Rabbit in the Moon is the seven weeks in 1989 from the rise of the democracy movement on April 15th to its fall with the Tiananmen massacre, we talked about those events and showed pictures Joel had taken during our travels in the 1980’s.

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